ZooKeepers Upset First Half Champion Owls For First Win Of Second Half

The Asheboro ZooKeepers upset the first half West Division champion Forest City Owls with a 7-6 victory on Saturday night for their maiden victory of the season’s second half.

The Zooks turned to Andrew Simone for his second start of the season on the mound. Although the red-hot Owls offense, which scored 41 runs in the previous three contests, delivered a solo home run in the first, the ZooKeepers quickly responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, highlighted by a two-RBI single from Owen Blackledge and an RBI single by Dallas Callahan. 

Asheboro’s offense clicked again in the second inning as Alex Lodise hit his first home run as a ZooKeeper to score himself and Jay Dillard, who reached base earlier in the inning off an error. 

Lodise, who also picked up his first double of the season on Friday night against Lexington County, is tied for second on the team with 14 hits. Head coach Korey Dunbar said Lodise has made recent adjustments at the plate which have helped in recent outings. 

“I think the big adjustment for him is just trying to use the whole field and really to set his sights with his hands working up the middle. I think that if he can continue to do that and set his approach for more of an opposite field approach, that’s where those extra base hits come from,” Dunbar said. “That was a phenomenal adjustment by him but I think he’s been good for us all year too. Hopefully he can continue to do that throughout the rest of the season.”

A bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the third put the Zooks up 6-1. Simone surrendered a run in the fourth inning and was taken out of the game after putting the first two Forest City batters in the fifth aboard. However, Dunbar said he was impressed with Simone’s performance in just his fifth appearance of the campaign. 

“Our guys on the mound attacked guys early on,” Dunbar said. “Simone had some of his best stuff that we’ve seen out of him all year.”

The Owls plated three runs in the fifth after Jacob Halford replaced Simone. With the lead down to 6-5, Asheboro responded immediately in the bottom half with an RBI single from Lleyton Lackey to score Callahan. 

Following a scoreless sixth inning, Forest City again made it a one-run game with a solo home run. After Halford got out of the inning, the ZooKeepers turned to Spencer Floyd for his second appearance of the season for a six-out save.

Floyd, who earned the Coastal Plain League’s line of the night after his first Zooks appearance, was flawless again as he got the six outs he needed while allowing just two walks to secure the save. 

“He’s aggressive out of the peb and he trusts his stuff,” Dunbar said. “We trust his stuff and so he comes out and just attacks guys. I think that if you can consistently do that out of the pen, good things are going to happen. Kudos to him.”

With the win, Asheboro is now 1-2 against Forest City on the season. The Zooks will return to McCrary on Monday for a seven-inning exhibition game against the Wake Forest Fungo. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. 

Written by Jacob Kisamore