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Raiders power through in 9th to beat Knights

FARMINGTON – Players were aware upon their arrival Thursday at Wilson-Rozier Park that any baseball lifted high into the powerful and swirling breeze could become an adventure.

Despite committing five defensive errors, visiting North County created a comfortable situation for itself by loading the bases just in time for senior Sean Pruneau to deliver another timely jolt.

Pruneau plugged the left-center field alley with a three-run double in the top of the ninth inning, and the Raiders escaped with a wild 7-5 conference victory.

Cole Ziegler and Layton Mallow recorded two hits apiece, and winning reliever Shelby Lee pitched three frames for North County (10-6, 2-1), which was outhit 12-7 unofficially.

Mallow opened the ninth with a drive that forced left fielder Blane Worley to the warning track and deflected off his glove for a double. Drew then bunted the next pitch for a single.

An intentional walk to Kolten Poorman brought Pruneau to the dish. His first hit of the afternoon proved to be the difference, snapping a 4-4 deadlock.

Farmington (3-8, 1-2) placed the potential tying runs on base in the home half as Hunter Peirce extended the game with an RBI single. Lee retired Tyler Hampton on a line out to close the deal.

The contest provided a brisk pace through the first four innings, and North County enjoyed a 1-0 edge heading into the bottom of the fifth.

Poorman, who recorded six strikeouts over six innings in an eventual no-decision, saw his chances for a shutout evaporate as Farmington sent seven batters to the plate and tallied three runs.

Kaiden Kaiser-Barton triggered the rally with a single, and advanced two more bases when a return throw skipped through the entire infield untouched.

Grant Higginbotham tied the game with an RBI single, and Chad Silvey walked before Noah Bellew hammered a two-run triple over the head of Pruneau in right field.

Higginbotham cruised through two innings on the mound, but was replaced to begin the sixth. Briley Smith immediately reached on a throwing error for the Raiders.

Owen Tripp issued back-to-back walks, then plunked Karson Kekec to force in a run. An RBI single from Dawson Harper evened the score, and Tripp hit Eli Claywell in the thigh to put North County ahead 4-3.

Jacob Jarvis became the fourth Farmington pitcher at that juncture, and brilliantly worked around the inherited damage by catching both Mallow and Forney looking at third strikes.

The Knights responded with a threat as an error and a double by Jarvis resulted in runners at second and third in the bottom of the sixth. But Poorman protected the lead by fanning Tripp and Higginbotham.

Worley made a tumbling backward catch for Farmington in the seventh, taking extra bases away from Smith, and his team generated a tying rally to force extra frames.

Alex Palmer ended the outing of Poorman with a double to right-center, and Silvey singled against Lee before Bellew supplied a sacrifice fly for his third RBI while going 2-for-4 overall.

North County was highlighted defensively by a leaping catch from Poorman that began a key double play in the eighth. Forney also made two difficult plays on pop flies behind the plate.

Bellew had perhaps the most impressive gem, however, in center field with an elevated diving catch on a drive that was scorched by Karson Kekec.

The Raiders’ first hit was aided by the wind as Mallow hustled out a triple that turned the right fielder around and eluded his reach in the third inning.

Forney made it 1-0 with a sacrifice fly against Farmington starter Jaysen Mattingly, who retired nine of his 11 batters faced before being replaced.

Palmer went 3-for-5 to pace the Knights, who wasted runners at the corners with no outs in the first inning as Bellew was cut down at home on a delayed double steal attempt.

North County junior Kolten Poorman celebrates after following teammates Leyton Mallow (7) and Drew Forney (12) across the plate on a three-RBI double by Sean Pruneau in the ninth inning against Farmington on Thursday.

North County junior Kolten Poorman celebrates after following teammates Leyton Mallow (7) and Drew Forney (12) across the plate on a three-RBI double by Sean Pruneau in the ninth inning against Farmington on Thursday.

Farmington center fielder Noah Bellew completes a diving catch during second inning action against North County on Thursday.

Farmington center fielder Noah Bellew completes a diving catch during second inning action against North County on Thursday.

North County senior catcher Drew Forney catches a foul ball while hanging on to his mask as Farmington batter Owen Tripp looks in during third inning action on Thursday.

North County senior catcher Drew Forney catches a foul ball while hanging on to his mask as Farmington batter Owen Tripp looks in during third inning action on Thursday.

Matt King is the sports editor for the Daily Journal. Contact him at mking@dailyjournalonine.com

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