PLAYOFF PREVIEW: East Finals Game 2
By Jake Keator
The Daily Reflector
Thursday, May 23, 2019
D.H. Conley’s baseball and softball teams both fell into a 1-0 hole Tuesday night in the beginning of their respective 3-A East Regional Finals three-game series.
Both teams must fend off elimination in Game Two tonight in hopes of forcing a decisive third game. The winner of the series moves onto the state championship.
No. 1 New Hanover at No. 2 D.H. Conley (7 p.m.)
N.C. State commit Blake Walston took control for host New Hanover on Tuesday in Wilmington, as the Vikings put just two batters on base, neither of which earned a hit in New Hanover’s 5-0 win.
Things won’t get any easier tonight, as DHC will face off against Alex Sniffen in Game Two. Sniffen, ranked by PrepsBaseballReport.com as the third overall prospect in North Carolina, holds a pristine 8-0 record this season and an impressive 0.26 ERA.
Sniffen’s fastball clocks in between 83-87 MPH, a slight decrease from the 92 MPH heaters thrown by Walston Tuesday. Sniffen’s curveball also has plenty of movement, and his changeup registers between 75-78 MPH.
Sniffen’s opponent will by UNC Greensboro commit Robbie O’Neal, who holds a perfect record of his own at 4-0. O’Neal also holds a 2.65 ERA.
DHC should feel a bit more comfortable tonight in the friendly confines of Hollywood Crossroads, which should also improve the contact throughout the lineup. Errors plagued the Vikings in the series opener, which head coach Jason Mills attributed to his side’s youth. Now that the nerves of opening the regional finals against the defending state champions have worn off, look for Conley to return to the team that shined all season.
PREDICTION: The Vikings pull out a tight one-run win at home, forcing a return to Wilmington for the series finale Saturday in Wilmington.
No.1 D.H. Conley at No. 2 Eastern Alamance (7 p.m.)
Conley head coach Wayne Deans praised Eastern Alamance for its late game execution Tuesday night following DHC’s 3-2 extra-innings loss in Greenville, where pitching was the biggest factor.
With Eagles ace Kenna Raye Dark out for the remainder of the series due to pitch count, the Vikings could gain an advantage in the circle. Deans is likely to throw senior Lexie Vincent in Game Two. While Wiles has been the go-to option for the Vikings, Vincent has quietly had another strong year. She holds a 6-0 record with a 2.27 ERA.
Conley popped out on eight of 32 at bats Tuesday, 25 percent of the time. If DHC can level out its swing, that total should fall drastically, creating more base hits and more runners advancing, which has the opportunity to create a whole new ball game should the bats get hot.
One player who will look to continue her strong performance is freshman second baseman Trinity Nichols, who accounted for one of the two runs Conley scored Tuesday and finished 1-for-2. She also reached base on an error in the fifth inning but was stranded on second.
Nichols seemed comfortable in the box facing UNC commit Dark. If she can continue to lead her team at the plate, she could provide the spark her side needs to even the series.
PREDICTION: Conley forces a winner-take-all game three Friday night at Hollywood Crossroads.
Contact Jake Keator at email@example.com, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.