2018-03-10 / Sports

Rockets ‘Snap’ off win in home opener

Oakley dominates, Collie crushes in victory against Northern Durham
BY KELLY SNOW
COURIER-TIMES SPORTS EDITOR


Person’s Dylan Collie teammates are waiting for him at home plate to celebrate his huge sixth-inning homer during Thursday’s victory against Northern Durham. 
KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Person’s Dylan Collie teammates are waiting for him at home plate to celebrate his huge sixth-inning homer during Thursday’s victory against Northern Durham. KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Person’s Austin T. Oakley struck out the first Northern Durham batter he faced.

The problem was that the third strike ended up at the backstop, the runner from third scored and the batter went to first.

But from that point on, the pitcher with the snappy nickname was dynamite and led the Rockets to a 9-6 victory against former PAC-6 rival Northern Durham on a chilly Thursday night at home.

Oakley, nicknamed Snap, gave up only one run on three hits in five innings of relief. The left-hander struck out seven for the game, including six of the first seven batters he faced.

“Austin Oakley coming in and giving us five innings was huge,” Person coach Kyle Boyette said. “He came in a tough spot and came through. He was big. He was pumping his fastball and pounding the strike zone.”


Austin T. Oakley tossed five innings of relief to get the win in Thursday’s game against Northern Durham. He surrendered one run on three hits. 
KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Austin T. Oakley tossed five innings of relief to get the win in Thursday’s game against Northern Durham. He surrendered one run on three hits. KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Oakley had to work his way out of trouble in the later innings. With his team clinging to a 7-6 lead, Northern’s Jordan Snow hit a deep flyball in the gap toward left-center that outfielder Luke Clayton chased down for the third out of the inning.

The Rockets gave their pitcher a little extra cushion heading into the seventh when Dylan Collie hit a towering two run homer well beyond the fence in centerfield to push the lead to 9-6.

Northern Durham again brought the tying run to the plate and the result was similar. Pinch-hitter Sam Boss’s soft liner to shallow center was tracked down by Clayton for the final out of the game.

The Rockets chased Northern starter Zack Mc- Cullen after just two innings of work. Person had seven runs, all of them earned on nine hits, including a leadoff double in the third by Drew Hungate that ended McCullen’s night. Stephen Eisenson came on in the third and tossed the final four innings, with the only runs coming on Collie’s homer.


Person’s Casey Nichols dives in safely to third base during Thursday’s game. 
KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Person’s Casey Nichols dives in safely to third base during Thursday’s game. KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES “We were attacking the fastball early and didn’t let them us with that,” Boyette said. “When they changed pitchers, I think we were slow to make adjustments. (Eisenson) was beating us with off-speed all night. I think we need to do a little better job making adjustments. In this conference, we can’t afford to have innings where we go 1-2-3.”

Nathan Phillips had a big night at the plate for the Rockets, going 2-for- 3 with RBI singles in the first and second innings. Casey Nichols finished 3-for-4 and scored three times, while Jacob Vaughn delivered a two-run double to deep center in the second inning.


Person’s Jacob Vaughn successfully steals third in the second inning of Thursday’s game against Northern. 
KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Person’s Jacob Vaughn successfully steals third in the second inning of Thursday’s game against Northern. KELLY SNOW | COURIER-TIMES Hungate had a pair of hits, while Joseph Berryhill doubled in fifth.

Jaylin Riley and Snow each had two hits for the Knights.

Person stepped back into conference play Friday and fell to Eastern Alamance 4-2. The Rockets are now 2-2 overall and 0-2 in the consistently tough Mid-State Conference. The Rockets travel to Western Alamance Tuesday before hosting reigning 3-A state champion Northern Guilford Friday.

Next week’s games are vitally important if the Rockets hope to stay in the hunt for one of the top four spots in the conference standings.

“I think a good season for us is (a top-four finish in the conference),” Boyette said. “We’ve talked about it in our preseason meeting that we want to make the playoffs, and for us to do that, we have to make top four. As we progress and get better, that’s a realistic goal.”

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