Wheatmore Warriors make most of 14-inning experience

Wheatmore coach Trey Byrd watches a game earlier this month. (PJ Ward Brown/Randolph Record)

Games on consecutive nights test endurance

TRINITY – Wheatmore catcher Payton Mooney didn’t let the drain of spending 14 innings behind the plate in a baseball game last week get to him.

“During the game, with adrenaline going, I felt fine,” Mooney said. “Fourteen innings is a long time.”

The Warriors won that game at Southwestern Randolph, then the next night had a rematch at home.

Fortunately for Wheatmore, the second game lasted just six innings, but that still meant 20 innings in catching gear across two days for Mooney.

“That’s wild,” Warriors coach Trey Byrd said. “All that in about 24 hours. It was definitely an experience.”

The teams played last week’s regularly scheduled game Tuesday night. Because of a dicey weather forecast late in the week, they moved the second game of the Piedmont Athletic Conference set up to Wednesday – before they were aware of the number of innings they would play in the first matchup.

Wheatmore scored four 14th-inning runs to win 8-4. The next night, the Warriors rallied with 13 runs in the sixth inning, wiping out a deficit and collecting a 20-10 decision via the mercy rule.

Despite 30 total runs in the second meeting, the first game might turn out most memorable.

The Warriors withstood seven consecutive innings when they had to prevent a run or Southwestern Randolph would have won. Wheatmore executed a pair of extra-inning rundowns to record outs.

“That’s a long game, and you have all those scoreless innings,” Byrd said. “It was an event. It’s really going to come down to who can stay focused.”

Ayden Byrd was up to the task on the mound with eight scoreless innings in relief. He snared a seventh-inning liner to help extend the game. He struck out eight batters with two walks while allowing four hits.

“That’s the best he has thrown to me,” Mooney said. “It was nerve-wracking.”

Wheatmore’s go-ahead run came when Rowan Wagner was hit by a pitch followed by Ayden Byrd walking with the bases loaded. Two more runs scored on errors.

After returning to the school well after midnight, Mooney and teammate Clay Hill made a jaunt to Cook Out in Thomasville.

“In about the 10th inning, I was thinking, ‘I can’t wait to eat,’ ” Mooney said. “We were dying for some food.”

Trey Byrd made sure to check with Mooney early the next day.

“When he came into school, I wanted to know how he felt,” he said.

Mooney, a junior, was eager to stay in his normal role.

“When we were warming up for the game at home, my arm was sore from throwing some much (the night before),” Mooney said later.

The Warriors ended up with late-game energy. Wheatmore’s Jonathan Heraldo logged 3 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run in relief of Sean Jennison. Mooney and Lukas Usterbowski each drove in three runs and Byrd rapped three hits.

“We knew we had to go out there and put up some runs,” Mooney said.

As it turned out, Friday night would have been ideal conditions for a game.

“You can’t predict the weather,” Trey Byrd said.

Having passed the midweek endurance test, the Warriors didn’t seem to mind.

“Winning both games certainly helped,” Mooney said.

By Bob Sutton