ROCKINGHAM — The end result in Asheboro was just as Rockingham Pony coach Jeff Ingram hoped.
Rockingham relied on strong pitching, solid defense and generating runs playing small ball to finish 4-0 in the round-robin section tournament with Asheboro and Bennett to win the title and advance to the East Zone South Region beginning tonight in Davidson.
Rockingham is scheduled to square off with the host team, Davidson, in the nightcap. Game time is set for 8 p.m. High Point and another team from Davidson will open the tournament at 6 p.m.
The winner of the High Point-Davidson contest will face Chesterfield (Virginia) at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Southampton-Sussex (Virginia) will await the victor of the Rockingham-Davidson clash at 8 p.m. Wednesday.
The losing teams from the first night will not return to action until Thursday. The loser of the Rockingham-Davidson contest will take on the losing squad from Wednesday’s opening game. The loser of the High Point-Davidson game will square off with Tuesday’s nightcap losing team.
“We seem to hit better pitching. If it works out this week or not I don’t know,” Jeff Ingram said. “Slower pitching has given us problems. We hit pretty good the last game. We hit pretty good up in High Point. We just made some bad errors at bad time.”
During its run to the section championship, Rockingham outscored the opposition 27-5 in the four games. Justin Ingram hurled a complete-game shutout in the first matchup with Bennett. Ingram allowed two hits, walked two and struck out seven. In its opening contest of the tournament, Drew Loving, Drew Grant and Ingram surrendered just one hit to Asheboro.
Tyler Blount pitched four shutout innings and Grant tossed a scoreless frame as Rockingham rolled to a 12-0 victory over Asheboro in the second clash between the two teams. In the final game of the tournament, Loving and Grant combined to earn a 6-4 win over Bennett.
In Pony League, a pitcher is forced to sit out 40 hours if he pitches more than three innings in a game or has accumulated 12 innings in a tournament. Because of this, Jeff Ingram has been happy to have a stable of four pitchers who have already seen action.
“We don’t have a dominant pitcher, but we’ve got good pitching. We don’t have that one that we’re going to send out there and shut down the other teams,” he said. “We have to make the routine plays. They’re going to get their hits, we just have to make the routine plays. If we don’t, the same thing that happened in High Point, we are going to lose those close games.”
Even though Jeff Ingram understands his team’s best opportunities to score will come while using the small-ball blueprint, Rockingham did flash some power in the section tournament.
Chase Puckett smashed a home run in each of the final two games of the event, while Justin Ingram had a solo shot in the victory over Bennett.
“When we get them on third, we are going to get them in,” Jeff Ingram said. “We don’t hit the ball that good. We have to squeeze those runs in. They all know that. It doesn’t matter if it’s the fourth batter or the ninth, they know at same point in the game they are going to have to bunt.”
He added the best thing his team can do is avoid falling into the losers’ bracket. Once there it is tough to battle out from that hole.
“You start playing to win if you have to burn pitchers you have to burn them,” Jeff Ingram said. “I hope we can get past that first game, score some runs throw our best two three innings and some back with another for one. And roll over and do the same thing the next day.”
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.