Through 11 games this season, the Roanoke Rapids varsity baseball team has been an efficiency model of small-ball strategy.
Base knocks, 126.
Swiped bags, 41.
Runs scored, 119.
Added together, the troupe has been a breezy, bother-me-not force.
What remains to be seen, however, is just how well the free-swinging Jackets will perform tonight in a setting far removed from their undefeated regular season — a cauldron better known as the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A playoffs.
First pitch versus West Craven (9-4) is slated for 6 p.m. at Doyle Field.
Over the last month, RRHS has been stellar, torch-lighting opposing pitchers for 50 base hits, 54 runs and five victories, while the Eagles have been a bit more uneven — as in, four wins against three losses, and run production to the tune of just over five per outing.
What’s more, there’s the cozy prospect of playing at home, where the Jackets have gone wild this spring, hitting .405 while crossing 70 runs and tallying five mercy-rule wins.
Simply put, Buzz City feasts in front of family and friends.
And to advance, it will likely have to do so against West Craven ace Nick Bruno (4-1, 1.31 ERA), who twice handled innings this season against tradition-rich North Lenoir, a talented No. 4-seed helmed by former Southern Wayne skipper Jackson Massey.
As opening-round matchups go, this is a good one.
Usual is, usual does
Jacket enthusiasts would be wise not to expect any sweeping lineup changes this evening, beginning on the mound, where either Braxton Coggins or senior AJ Strickland will get the starting nod.
To date, the duo has been unflinching, whittling counts of all sorts to very little, as evidenced by a combined 60 strikeouts and 19 earned runs over 50 1/3 innings of work.
But should the hosts somehow find themselves mired in a late-innings mystery, it could very well come to pass that freshman Maddox Bullock makes a game-breaking difference, operating out of the 9-hole with all the prowess of a leadoff hitter.
Over the course of this spring, No. 16 has shown upperclassman-like savvy at the plate, hitting .375 with four extra-base hits and 15 runners scored.
In a word, Bullock is disciplined — as are many in head coach Mark Snead’s contact-hitting lineup — making it very difficult to pitch around him.
Or them, for that matter.