It sometimes takes a while for an insurance policy to mature, but the one the McDowell Titans purchased Tuesday needed just a couple of innings to pay off in a big way.
The Titans (13-9 overall, 6-5 Mountain Athletic 4A/3A Conference) held off the Asheville Cougars 5-4 at home, thanks in large part to a single insurance run in the bottom of the fifth that made the score 5-3.
Asheville scratched out a run in the top of the seventh to get within 5-4, but McDowell starter Zach Franklin closed out the Cougars to preserve the win and insure the Titans at least a .500 finish in conference play.
McDowell led 5-3 with two gone in the bottom of the fifth when Asheville pitcher Noah Cook plunked Michael Wall. Chase Justice, running for Wall, went to second on a basehit by Sydney Pike and scored on an RBI single by Riley Harting.
The score stayed that way until the seventh, when a couple of hits and a wild pitch produced a run for the Cougars. But Franklin buckled down to get a strikeout and a pair of pop-ups to end the threat.
Franklin went the distance, allowing four runs – only one of them earned – on five hits. He struck out seven and walked two.
Cook pitched well but was saddled with the loss after giving up five runs, three earned, on six hits in six innings of work. He struck out four and walked a pair.
The Titans took a 1-0 lead in the second. Wall led off with a double (giving way to pinch-runner Justice) and Pike followed with a walk. Harting moved the runners over with a sacrifice bunt and Franklin drove in Justice with a sacrifice fly.
McDowell added to the lead with two runs in the third thanks to a pair of Asheville errors.
But the Titans returned the favor in the top of the third with a couple of miscues of their own, and Asheville tied the score at 3-3.
Harting walked to start the fourth and moved to second on a sacrifice by Franklin. Dawson Moore’s RBI double gave McDowell a 4-3 edge.
Troy Sheperd went 2-for-3 for the Titans. Wall (1-for-2, double), Pike (1-for-2, BB), Harting (1-for-1, RBI, BB) and Moore (1-for-3, double, RBI) collected a hit apiece.
Jared Patterson went 2-for-4 with a double for the Cougars, while Cook was 1-for-2 with a double and three runs driven in.
McDowell was on the road at non-conference foe Watauga Wednesday. Results were not available at press time. The Titans round out the regular season Friday on the road at A.C. Reynolds. McDowell will play T.C. Roberson in the MAC 4A tournament series next Tuesday at home (7 p.m.). Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be at Roberson Wednesday beginning at 4:30.