Striking Gold(en): Chatham Charter’s ace powers Knights past Clover Garden with 14 Ks

KNIGHTS 10, GRIZZLIES 0

Posted 5/26/21

SILER CITY — They may not be precious metal experts, but if you ask the Chatham Charter dugout, they’ll likely tell you that gold — not rhodium or palladium — is still the most valuable metal …

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Striking Gold(en): Chatham Charter’s ace powers Knights past Clover Garden with 14 Ks

KNIGHTS 10, GRIZZLIES 0

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SILER CITY — They may not be precious metal experts, but if you ask the Chatham Charter dugout, they’ll likely tell you that gold — not rhodium or palladium — is still the most valuable metal there is.

And much like ‘49ers during the gold rush, Clover Garden batters discovered avoiding Golden strikeouts is just as rare as striking gold itself.

Knights’ senior starting pitcher Trevor Golden earned his fourth win of the season (4-0) last Thursday against the Clover Garden Grizzlies, striking out 14 batters en route to a 10-0 six-inning shutout.

And despite his stellar stat line (6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 14 K), Golden wasn’t totally satisfied.

“Truthfully, I feel like I did not play good, pitching-wise,” Golden said after the win. “I struggled to locate the zone a little bit. Off-speed wasn’t really on tonight, I had a good change-up and fastball. … But overall, I didn’t let them score, so that’s pretty exciting.”

His frustrations, in some ways, are justified.

In three separate innings — the fourth, fifth and sixth — Golden allowed either a hit or walk to lead off the inning, putting his team at a disadvantage early.

However, in each of the three scenarios, he battled back to collect three straight outs, ending the inning without any further damage. He bent on occasion, but never broke. Not even once.

Golden’s senior season has been one full of successes and, at times, unbelievable numbers.

On May 14, Golden pitched 6.2 innings in a 7-2 victory over the Southern Wake Academy Lions. Out of the 20 outs he was responsible for that night — he was pulled one batter before the last out — 19 of them came by way of strikeout.

“I didn’t even know I had 19 strikeouts until they pulled me out,” Golden said, laughing. “That was the best feeling I’ve ever had in the world.”

In four starts, the Knights’ ace has allowed just two earned runs — both against Southern Wake — and has pitched three shutouts, including one no-hitter in the season-opener against Ascend Leadership Academy.

Over his last two outings — spanning 12.2 innings — Golden has combined for 33 strikeouts, an average of 2.7 strikeouts per inning.

In those two games, 24% of opposing batters have put the ball in play against him.

“He’ll tell you he didn’t have his best stuff (tonight) and he wasn’t sharp and he still struck out 14,” Bill Slaughter, the Knights’ coach said. “He’s got a good arm, he’s got a good mind for the game, but he just works hard. … And he loves it.”

Along with his lights-out defense, Golden is arguably the team’s best hitter, too.

Against the Grizzlies, he was an extra-base machine, going 4-for-4 from the plate with a single, a double and two triples with one RBI.

Despite their 2-6 record, the Grizzlies are a formidable team that’s hung with a couple of tough Central Tar Heel opponents — including a 4-0 loss to the Knights and a 5-3 loss to the unbeaten Cornerstone Charter Academy Cardinals — but on Thursday, Golden had little issue causing them trouble.

“I think he’s the best hitter in the league,” Slaughter said. “Not only is he the best pitcher, he’s also the best hitter in the league. That’s double-trouble.”

Golden was one of three Chatham Charter batters to reach base on all four plate appearances, including the Knights’ dangerous freshman lead-off hitter Aidan Allred (3-for-3, BB, RBI) and senior catcher Jacob Brannon (2-for-2, BB, HBP, 2 RBI).

In the bottom of the first, Allred narrowly reached base on a single to lead off the inning, using his speed to make it to the bag just as the first baseman’s foot came off of it.

After he advanced to second on a passed ball during the next at-bat, Allred stole third and caught the Grizzlies off guard, forcing the catcher to make an errant throw to third base that flew over the infielder’s head and allowed him to get home with ease.

Before the Knights had a chance to complete their second plate appearance, they already had a 1-0 lead.

Those early issues nagged at the Grizzlies throughout the game.

A couple of batters later — after his stand-up triple to center field — Golden scored on a wild pitch to make it a 2-0 ballgame in the first. In total, the Knights scored four of their 10 runs on passed balls/wild pitches.

Chatham Charter didn’t score again until the fourth inning when senior Carter Phillips used a sacrifice bunt to advance junior Colton Nixon to second base. In the following at-bat, junior Thomas O’Hara destroyed a ball deep to center field, landing inches away from the outfield wall, which resulted in an RBI single as the Grizzlies were able to hold him to just one base.

“Man, I thought that ball was going out,” Slaughter said with a chuckle. “When it left the bat, I thought it was out of here.”

Slaughter mentioned that O’Hara is one of the many players on his roster that, prior to this season, hadn’t gotten much high school baseball experience. He’s worked wonders with them anyway.

He’s taken players that have been primarily focused on basketball — including sophomores Jackson Brown and Aamir Mapp — and a few, like O’Hara, that haven’t played since seventh or eighth grade, and figured out how to get the most out of them. And because of it, the Knights are sitting at 7-1 this season with the possibility of winning their conference.

Chatham Charter went on to score four additional runs in the fifth and sixth innings, setting Brannon up with two runners — sophomore Cameron Turner and Golden — on base in the sixth inning of an 8-0 game.

Brannon proceeded to whack a pitch just past first for a base hit, scoring both runners and triggering the 10-run mercy rule, walking it off and solidifying a season sweep of the Grizzlies.

After the game, Slaughter directed his team on their post-game responsibilities, which typically include picking up the bases, raking the field and tidying up the complex, but on Thursday, things were a little different.

Chatham Charter was scheduled to hold its commencement ceremony the next day, Friday, on the baseball field, which meant the players, who were the last ones to use it, were responsible for making it look fit for the seniors’ big day.

“We’re putting out the tarp from home for tomorrow’s graduation,” Slaughter said, adding with a laugh, “And if we don’t have it just right, if there’s dirt in (the dugout) or anything out of place out here, (the principal) will let us know.”

Three Knights — Brannon, Golden and Phillips — graduated on Friday and will have to wait a couple of weeks before officially starting their summer as Chatham Charter alumni. There’s still plenty of baseball to play.

The oddities of a delayed season.

Reporter Victor Hensley can be reached at vhensley@chathamnr.com or on Twitter at @Frezeal33.

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