First Posted: 3/28/2012
ST. PAULS — Dustin Canady was gassed.
After throwing more than 90 pitches through four innings, St. Pauls’ starting pitcher walked off the mound Tuesday with one out and the bases loaded in the fifth against West Columbus.
Clinging to a four-run lead, Bulldog skipper Tommy Townsend signaled to short for staff ace Josh Thompson in hopes of subduing the threat.
The Vikings pulled within a run, but Thompson got out of trouble with the tying run on third and fanned four over the final two scoreless frames to help the Bulldogs close out a pivotal, 10-8, Three Rivers Conference win.
“I told Dustin to just get us into the fifth and we’ll let Josh finish it off for him,” Townsend said after his team’s third win in five games. “We’ll have other points in the season where the roles are reversed. Both those guys know they’re our best pitchers.”
The win, coupled with Fairmont’s 4-3 victory over East Columbus, sets up a battle for sole possession of first place between the two squads Friday afternoon at Fairmont. St. Pauls (3-6, 3-1) shook off an early 3-1 deficit against West Columbus with five runs in the second and three in the fourth.
Jhamel Leonard delivered the major blow during the Bulldogs’ biggest inning with a three-run homer to right that tucked inside the foul pole and landed on the road. After chasing a slider for a strikeout in his first at-bat, Leonard’s long ball on a 1-2 pitch gave St. Pauls a 5-3 lead it would never relinquish.
“I was looking for a curveball on the outside corner,” Leonard said. “I guess he slipped up and hung one. I just tried to drive it.”
Canady was charged with eight runs — three earned — in 4 1/3 innings. The Lumberton transfer allowed seven hits, walked five and struck out seven. The Bulldogs accumulated three errors in the infield behind him, including a pair in the fifth that led to a four-run frame from West Columbus.
Canady says he’ll be ready for a relief appearance Friday if Thompson can’t go the distance against the Golden Tornadoes.
“We just need to tighten up our defense and make the routine plays,” Canady said. “You don’t have to play spectacular to win in this conference because everyone is basically equal.”
On Monday, East Bladen left St. Pauls with a 16-7 win. Townsend didn’t think his team came out with enough intensity in the non-conference game and appeared flat as a result.
“I’m proud of the way we bounced back because I wasn’t happy with the effort against East Bladen,” Townsend said. “Since the South Robeson win, I think our guys are competing and that’s what I like to see.”
Reach Staff writer BradCrawford at (910) 272-6119 or [email protected]