Published: 11:05 PM, Thu May 10, 2012
Spencer Faircloth pitches Cape Fear into 2nd round of state 4-A baseball playoffs
The Cape Fear baseball team considers geese a lucky omen this year, and the squad was buoyed early Thursday when a pair of geese swooped across the outfield at Carter Smith Stadium.
But in the end, it was the pitching of sophomore left-hander Spencer Faircloth that proved the difference as he hung one goose egg after another on the scoreboard in a 2-1 Colt win over Clayton.
The victory in the first round of the state 4-A playoffs improves Cape Fear to 15-7-1. Clayton's season ends at 14-11.
Cape Fear advances to the second round of the playoffs against the winner of tonight's game between New Bern and Smithfield-Selma. If New Bern wins, Cape Fear will travel there for the next round. A Smithfield win would put Cape Fear at home next Tuesday.
Faircloth gave up a run in the first inning against Clayton, and then held the Comets scoreless the rest of the way, allowing four hits and striking out nine.
But it wasn't all smooth flying for the Colts pitcher, especially in the ninth inning after Clayton loaded the bases with only one out.
Faircloth said he had one thing in mind at that point. "Composure, composure, composure,'' he said. "My coach kept telling me, 'One pitch at a time.' I've got a great staff behind me and I knew if I kept hitting my spots, they'd make plays and we'd get a win.''
As it turned out, Faircloth didn't need the defense behind him in the seventh as he took the full load on his shoulders, striking out the final two batters to seal the win.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first, Cape Fear got all the runs it needed in the bottom of the first.
A bunt single by Justin Robinson and a throwing error by Clayton pitcher Evan Phillips put runners at second and third for the Colts.
Austin Davis and Daniel Furr laid down back-to-back bunts to score Robinson and Jordan Jacobs to stake the Colts to a 2-1 lead that Faircloth would make hold up the rest of the way.
"We expected a low-scoring game,'' Colts coach Wendell Smith said, not hesitating to go the bunt early.
"When you've got a guy clicking the gun at 92, 93 (mph), you feel like you need to try something different.
"Once we've got two, it's on Spencer's shoulders, and we feel pretty good when it's on his shoulders.''
Smith felt Faircloth's fastball was his best pitch of the night. When Faircloth began having problems in the seventh, the coach told him to turn it loose. "Old-timers say throw it, don't aim it,'' Smith said. "I think in a nutshell he made up his mind that was what he was going to do.''
Cape Fear 2, Clayton 1
Clayton 100 000 0 - 1 4 1
Cape Fear 200 000 x - 2 2 1
Phillips and Creech. Fairlcoth and Johnson. W - Faircloth (7-3). L - Phillips.
Leading hitters: C - Phillips 2-3 (RBI). CF - Davis 0-2 (RBI); Furr 0-2 (RBI); Robinson 1-2; Rotsaert 1-3.
Records: Clayton 14-11, Cape Fear 15-7-1.