HIGH POINT — James Denton laced a single to right field in the bottom of the seventh that scored Nate Vargo in walkoff fashion and the High Point Hushpuppies edged the Mocksville Muscadines 2-1 in the first game of an Old North State League doubleheader at Truist Point stadium Tuesday.
The Hushpuppies won dramatically after they couldn’t score with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth, and with a runner on third with one out in the sixth.
“Luckily we had Nate, who is probably the fastest kid in the league, on second and James finally caught a barrel and it all worked out,” Hushpuppies coach Brandon Nelson said. “We hit when we needed to, I guess.”
Denton said he was looking for a fastball from Muscadines reliever Zack Lambeth.
“I was feeling a little more energized than usual because I wanted to win,” Denton said. “It got to two strikes and I told myself to breathe and relax. I saw it and I hit it. See ball, hit ball.
“I was anticipating some sort of offspeed but I’m pretty sure it was a fastball. I don’t why he would have thrown a fastball because I had been seeing fastballs all day and hitting them. It is what it is.”
Vargo led off the inning with his third walk of the game and stole second. He admitted he didn’t have the cleanest run to the plate once he saw Denton’s drive drop.
“James got it done so that was huge,” Vargo said. “When I was rounding third, I had an interesting route home but I decided to go for it instead of shutting it down at third. I held up between second and third so I had to get on my horse. When I looked up, I was heading straight toward third instead of having a banana route around third to home. I was happy to get it done. It was a blast.”
Once he started diving for the plate, Vargo had no idea where the ball was.
“I didn’t know,” Vargo said. “I was told to go to the back-right of the plate and that’s where I went. All my focus was on touching home.”
Nelson was sending Vargo all the way.
“The outfielder got it pretty good but with Nate’s speed I had to test him,” Nelson said. “If he throws him out. Good for him. But at the same time, we haven’t been putting up good at bats with runners on. At that moment, I decided I had to take the chance. And that’s what speed does.
“With a guy like Nate it was going to take an almost perfect throw to get him out. He’s just a difference maker on the base paths.
Nelson said he gave Vargo the green light to steal second.
“He asked me what I wanted him to do if he got on,” Nelson said. “I told him I trusted his wheels and his baseball IQ. It was all on him. He made me nervous because he almost slid over the bag and had to grab it to keep from going past. . .A good bit of baseball by him and a great piece of hitting by James. He really hadn’t caught one all day and then comes up big in that moment.”
A pitch before Denton delivered his hit, Vargo attempted to steal third. Denton fouled that pitch away.
“The super fast guys, you have to contain them in certain situations,” Nelson said. “With a lefty at the plate, I’m probably sending him on a base hit unless it’s a one-hopper to an outfielder. But (trying to steal) there didn’t make sense. I like his aggressiveness trying to win but you are already in scoring position to win a base hit, no need to run into an out, especially since it would have been the first out.”
The game-winning single was only the fourth hit of the game for the Hushpuppies. They scored in the first when Isaiah Gibbs laced a double to left that allowed Nick Roets to cross the plate. Roets walked.
They loaded the bases in the fifth thanks to three walks, the last two by reliever Michael Jeffries, who got out of the jam with two strikeouts and forcing a groundout. The runner in the sixth was hit by a pitch.
Will Andrews pitched a perfect seventh with two strikeouts and got the win on the mound. Hushpuppies starter Tyler Bryant dominated most of the first six innings as he struck out 11, walked one, allowed two hits and the run that was unearned and scored on a groundout with the bases loaded thanks to two errors and an infield hit.