Red Hawks baseball opens season with sweep

Red Hawks baseball opens season with sweep

HICKORY, N.C. — The 17th-ranked Catawba Valley Community College baseball team opened its season in style on Thursday, sweeping the visiting Piedmont International JV squad at Henkel-Alley Field at the Hickory American Legion Fairgrounds.

"I'm very, very proud of our guys," said fourth-year CVCC head baseball coach Paul Rozzelle. "I've been challenging them a lot here at practice lately. They responded…All of the guys were unbelievable all day. The energy was unbelievable. That's going to be the mark of this team I think. If we can compete as hard as we did from first pitch to last out and have guys filling up the zone on the mound, playing solid defense behind them and grinding out at bats, I am going to be tickled to death for the rest of this year regardless of wins or losses."

Game one: CVCC 4, Piedmont International 0

Behind a dominant pitching performance from sophomore captain Julian Smith, the Red Hawks one-hit the Bruins in the first game of the doubleheader on Thursday.

Smith allowed just one walk, no hits and struck out nine of the 13 Bruin batters he faced in Thursday's game. It was Smith's first game back since suffering an elbow injury on April 9, 2016 against Brunswick Community College and undergoing Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.

"It was great to feel good out there," Smith said. "Coming off Tommy John (surgery), I was really excited to be back out there with the guys. It's not like I was thinking about strikeouts. I just trusted my stuff. I had a great defense behind me. I was just pounding the zone."

Red Hawk pitchers allowed just one hit in the first game Thursday, and Catawba Valley's offense helped their cause by capitalizing on five hits at the plate, including two from leadoff hitter Cody Payne, to score four runs — three in the fifth inning — en route to the victory.

Jimmy Marcelli and Tyler Campbell drove in one run apiece in the contest for the Red Hawks (1-0).

CVCC pitchers Hunter Isaacs, Kevin Finzer and Timothy Davila combined to strike out three Bruins and hold them to just one hit in the shutout.

Game two: CVCC 20, Piedmont International 1

The Red Hawk offense erupted for 16 hits, including three apiece off the bats of Blake Jeter and Brett Macchia, to earn the 19-run victory in game two of the doubleheader against the Bruins.

The 20 runs are the most in a baseball game for Catawba Valley since scoring 23 against Surry Community College on Feb. 12, 2017.

Macchia, a former South Caldwell product, reached base three times in three plate appearances and drove in five runs, including a bases-clearing double in the third inning.

"I was just trying to go out the first game and get some good swings," Macchia said. "I just wanted to hit the ball hard. Everything just felt good today."

A freshman from Easley, S.C., Jeter connected on the first home run of the season by any Red Hawk player with his three-run shot to center field in the sixth inning. He finished the game with four RBI.

"It felt good," Jeter said of his home run. "I struggled early in the game, but I came back good and finished up the game right. It was a great way to start off the season."

Despite allowing seven walks, CVCC pitchers combined to strike out 13 Piedmont International batters, including five by starter Harry Hatcher, and the Red Hawks allowed just one hit to the Bruins.

"I'm really happy for our pitching staff," Rozzelle said. "To give up two hits, I don't care who you are facing. They did an unbelievable job."

The Catawba Valley baseball team finishes its series with the Piedmont International JV team on Friday. First pitch for the lone nine-inning contest is slated for 4 p.m.

"It's a great start, but it's only a start," Rozzelle said of Thursday's sweep. "We played great twice. There's going to be two games this season where we don't play great in a row, but how you respond to that and how you keep going — that's what this is all about. There are two (games) down and 54 (games) to go. It was a great day for our guys. I'm very proud and very happy for them to see some success and results from all the hard work."