As expected, pitching is going to be ahead of hitting early in the season.
New Bern and Havelock pitchers combined for 27 strikeouts on a chilly Thursday evening.
Kyle Gaskins’ two-run double in the fourth sparked a three-run inning as the Bears opened their season with a 4-1 win over Havelock at Boykin Field in New Bern.
“I think everybody, especially in Eastern North Carolina, is in the same spot,” New Bern coach Gary Smith said. “We haven’t been on the field enough to get hitting in. Our only scrimmage got canceled so they have been hitting in the cage.”
New Bern senior Whitman Barnes struck out 11 in 3 2/3 innings. He yielded just one run on six hits with a pair of walks.
Senior Cayne Ratliffe earned the win in middle relief. He fanned four Havelock batters and tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings.
“Whitman made big pitches when he needed to, then I thought Cayne was the story of the game,” Smith said.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the fourth inning, Ratliffe entered the game for New Bern with the bases loaded.
A passed ball drew Rams’ baserunner Randy Gibson toward home plate, but New Bern catcher Chandler Seagle threw a strike to Ratliffe, who covered the base and tagged out Gibson for the third out.
“Last year, (Cayne) was a transfer kid from Virginia and we didn’t know much about him,” Smith said. “He didn’t get many innings at all last year because of all the pitchers we had.
“He worked hard over the fall to develop a breaking ball. He is probably going to be in that role most of the season.”
In the bottom half of the fourth, Sean Garbarino earned a one-out walk and advanced to third on a single by Syril Smith.
Gaskins then cranked a double off the wall scoring Garbarino and pinch-runner Doug Arnold. Austin Held, running for Gaskins, scored later in the inning on a wild pitch.
The Bears tacked on an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on Trent Wynn’s RBI single. Garbarino pitched a perfect seventh inning for the save.
Havelock starting pitcher Aron Rossi threw 3 1/3 innings. He gave up three runs on four hits, striking out six. Chris Toler gave up one run on four hits the rest of the way.
“The first two innings, Rossi was dealing and I thought it was going to be a typical New Bern-Havelock game,” Smith said. “I think he got some pitches up after the third inning and our guys got some balls they could handle.”
Syril Smith had two singles to lead New Bern’s offense. Wynn, Austin King and Gaskins each had a hit.
Havelock pounded out seven hits. Rossi doubled and walked twice. Cameron Carpenter, Austin Coley, Toler, Gibson, Kendal Vickers and Tanner Johnson all singled.
The Rams left seven runners on base.
“We have to get better offensively,” Havelock coach Charlie Smith said. “(New Bern) has some good pitching, but we have to get better offensively. We had some ugly looking at bats.
“The top of the order, we can swing it a little bit. We have to take advantage of every opportunity. We were right in it until the end.”