CARY, N.C.—A word to the wise: When the temperature outside is in the high-30s in the middle of March, it’s safe to say a team from Colorado will hold the advantage.
That much held true on Wednesday afternoon, when Regis Jesuit scored a 6-1 win over Parkview (Ga.) in the teams’ first game of the National High School Invitational, held at the USA Baseball National Training Complex.
“It’s 70 back there (in Colorado) today, but we played Saturday in weather probably colder than this, colder and windier,” Regis Jesuit coach Matt Darr said. “Certainly doesn’t hurt to play in this. We’re used to it.”
A nip-and-tuck affair through the early innings, momentum seemed to swing in the fourth, when a key defensive play took Parkview out of what appeared to be a tantalizing rally.
With one out and first baseman Isiah Gilliam on third, right fielder Brandon Kelly’s bunt found just the wrong spot. Instead of two outs and a one-run lead, Heath pounced and turned a nifty 1-3-2 double play, completed with the help of a nifty throw and tag from first baseman Reagan Todd and catcher Jack Brett.
“That’s obviously a big momentum-changer,” Heath said. “We had one out and runners in scoring position, so in order for that to happen a lot of things have to go right. That’s definitely a big momentum-changer and everybody gets fired up because of it.”
With his team’s rally quashed in particularly unsatisfying fashion, Parkview hurler Christian Vann ran into control problems in the bottom of the frame, which wound up costing him big time.
With one out, Vann walked Justin Thaxton and plunked Zach Woodruff, then hung a breaking ball to Brett, who socked a double into deep right field. Thaxton scored from second, unlocking what had been a 1-1 tie.
Regis Jesuit tacked on another run in the fifth when Todd slipped a single under the glove of second baseman Daino Deas, scoring Aiden Cameron from second.
A walk later, Heath was knocked from the game in favor of lefty Jordan Kelly, who let up a two-run infield single to Brett that removed nearly all doubt from the outcome.
Facing a one-run deficit in the third, Regis Jesuit’s Max George lashed a two-strike Vann pitch into center field. The throw from Michael Craig was plenty strong but just high enough to let the tying run slide home safely.
Parkview opened the scoring when cleanup man Austin Biggar shot a Heath offering just inside the third-base line for an RBI double, bringing home Deas — who had singled to begin the game and took second on a wild pitch — easily from second base.
Regis Jesuit nearly answered in its half, but Deas’ leaping catch took what looked like a sure single from third baseman Matt Schmidt.
Regis Jesuit will face Mountain Pointe — which topped Bishop Verot earlier in the afternoon — on Thursday.