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Crusaders crush Titans, keep No. 1 ranking

May 1—After facing two of the state's top eight teams in their last two games, Grace Christian's Crusaders got a little bit of a break Monday night.

On tap Monday at Crusader Park was a game against former conference rival Thales-Apex. Grace scored 14 runs in the third inning on their way to a 21-1 rout in the first of three games for the Crusaders in the final week of the regular season.

Grace (15-6 overall), ranked No. 1 in the NCISAA's 3A division by MaxPreps, allowed just one hit and one run in the contest. Thales scored a run in the second inning aided by multiple walks and an error, but the Crusaders had already taken a 5-0 lead in their half of the first inning.

Four Crusader pitchers worked in the win. Jaxon Wade started and was credited with the victory. Will Clewis, Luke Garris and Connor Woods pitched the rest of the contest.

The Titans (8-10) were overmatched, although they have been very competitive this season in Raleigh Area Athletic Conference play. Thales has been aggressive in scheduling this season, facing not only the Crusaders, but also powerful Combine Academy in non-conference games.

Grace capitalized on three Thales errors to put five runs on the board in the first, then took advantage of two more miscues for a 7-1 lead after two complete innings. The third proved disastrous for the Titans, starting when Woods hit a solo homer over the left-field fence with one out. After that, the floodgates opened and the Crusaders batted around twice, sending 19 men to the play in a single inning. Thales extended the inning more than once my making mistakes, but Grace also had six hits, including a double by Alex Pena Jimenez. As the inning moved along, Crusader head coach Rob Wooten pulled several of his starters.

The double-mercy rule, 15 runs in three innings, doesn't exist at this level, but Thales managed to keep Grace from scoring any more runs, and the game was called after four and a half.

Will Clewis and Matt Murchison both scored four runs, with Murchison going 1-for-1 with three walks. He, Boaz Harper, and Camron Seagraves drove in two runs each, and Caleb Ellis scored twice and drove in three runs without benefit of a hit.

The Crusaders will visit Cary Christian on Thursday night and then end the regular season at Legion Collegiate on Friday.