SunDevils keep NSA bats cold

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, April 16, 2009

One game after pulling off a stunning four-run, last-inning comeback to beat previously-unbeaten Maury in the first game of the Greenbrier Christian Invitational tournament, Nansemond-Suffolk’s bats turned as cold as the weather on Wednesday afternoon as Salem defeated the Saints 2-0 in a game moved from Greenbrier Christian to Princess Anne High School.

On Monday at Greenbrier Christian, the Saints got a complete game on the mound from Michael Coburn. Coburn and an errorless game by NSA’s defense, kept Maury close enough so that a four-run seventh inning gave the Saints a 5-4 victory.

The Saints got good pitching again on Wednesday as Christian Upchurch went all seven innings, allowing four hits and one earned run.

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Salem, with the combination of lefty Connor Spaskey for five innings and Reymon Centeno in relief for the last two innings, blanked NSA’s offense and held the Saints to two hits.

Cold and windy conditions in Virginia Beach had plenty to do with the lack of offense on both sides, but both sides had chances to take the lead in the early innings.

The Saints moved runners around to third in their first two frames. Leadoff hitter Jim Hassell walked and reached third with two outs in the first, but a flyout to center by Mike Bradshaw ended the inning. In the NSA second, the Saints had runners on the corners with two outs, but Anthony Waldner hit a sharp grounder to third which was snared for a tough out.

Salem’s first big chance against Upchurch came in the top of the third. An error and a walk set up Sun Devil runners on second and third with no outs. Salem’s Justin Tabora sent a fly out to right-center field. NSA’s Isaac Ballou came over from center to make the catch on the move and his shot to the plate beat the Salem runner tagging from third for a huge double play. Upchurch and the Saints got out of the inning from there.

Salem capitalized and took the lead in the fifth though. Stolen bases were the key to the inning as the SunDevils went 5 for 5 on the base paths against Upchurch and NSA catcher Skylar White. A single, back-to-back stolen bases, then a sacrifice fly by Tabora, put Salem in front. Salem made it 2-0 with two outs in the inning when Coburn, playing first base, dropped a soft line drive which allowed a SunDevil to come in from third.

A leadoff double by Waldner to open NSA’s fifth inning was the closest the Saints came to getting something on the board the rest of the way. Centeno relieved Spaskey to start the NSA sixth and he retired all six batters he faced.

“We were overanxious at the plate today. We just were not having quality at-bats,” said NSA head coach Michael Curry.

“Everyone seemed overanxious. I think the guys were still a little too excited over that win (against Maury).”

Curry praised Upchurch’s effort on the mound. The complete game, with just over 100 pitches by Upchurch, was his longest outing of the year. Even in a loss, the complete game was important since the Saints are in the middle of playing five games in a six-day span. The Saints (10-3) face Minoa (N.Y.) Thursday and have tournament games at Greenbrier Christian on Friday and Saturday.