CHERRYVILLE â€” Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds thinks his team should be up 2-0 over Shelby in the opening round of the Area Four playoffs, but he will settle for 1-1.
After losing a 1-0 heartbreaker Monday at Shelby, Cherryville evened the best-of-5 series Tuesday night with a 9-4 victory behind the pitching of left-hander Chris Christensen and a suddenly air-tight defense.
“We played well again tonight just like we did last night,” Reynolds said. “We felt we outplayed them in the first game. Tonight, we got another great pitching job, and we know now we get a game four back here.”
Cast in the rare role of underdog, Post 100 (14-12) played errorless baseball in game two after turning four double plays in the opener. The tunaround on defense came five games ago when Reynolds moved Justin Keever from the outfield to shortstop and shifted Dylan Anthony to the outfield.
Since that move, Post 100 has committed just three errors in the last five games. For most of the season, Cherryville averaged more than five miscues per contest.
Good pitching was also a key to the win. Christensen (2-4) almost got the hook in the fourth inning when he gave up two hits and uncorked a wild pitch, but he worked out of the jam and settled into a groove. Starting with a strikeout of Josh Drewery to close the fourth, the Post 100 lefty retired 16 Shelby batters in a row.
Christensen struck out the side in the eighth inning and ended the game by fanning game one hero Josh Izokovic. Christensen also prevented Post 82 slugger Jamie Ray (.395, eight homers) from doing major damage, holding the center fielder to 1-for-4 and fanning him in the second innning with runners at second and third.
Reynolds pointed to the third inning as the momentum turner. Trailing 3-1, Cherryville manufactured two runs on singles by Paul Finger and Brian Ebert, a wild pitch, a passed ball and a groundout.
“We didn`t necessarily drive a run in, but we put the ball in play to get the game tied. That kept us right in there,” he said.
Shelby (16-9) regained the lead at 4-3 in the top of the fourth, but Post 100 took its first lead of the series on Keever`s two-run homer in the sixth off Shelby starting pitcher Drewery. Keever drove a a hanging curve ball over the left field fence on an 0-1 count.
Daniel Folk relieved Drewery in the seventh and gave up two more runs on three hits. In the eighth inning, Post 100 widened its lead to 9-4 when right fielder Luke Dobbins dropped a fly ball for a two-run error.
Keever, a Lincolnton High product, has emerged as a key contributor in the series.
“I thought (shortstop) is where I should have been playing the whole season. I just hope I keep hitting in the clutch like I have been, and if we keep getting good pitching, we might win the series.”
Josh Glover hit a solo homer for Post 100 in the first, his fourth of the year, and Evan Wise narrowly missed in the seventh when his drive to left struck the top of the fence and bounced back into the park for a ground-rule double.
The series returns to Shelby`s Veterans Field tonight for game three.
Shelby 1, Cherryville 0
In the series opener at Shelby`s Veterans Field, Josh Izokovic beat Post 100 with his bat and with his glove.
Izokovic`s bases-loaded, two-out single in the bottom of the 10th inning scored Dusty Quattlebaum with the game`s only run.
Shelby, which did not advance a runner past second base until the 10th, loaded the bases on two walks and a fielder`s choice.
Quattlebaum was issued an intentional pass in order to set up a potential double play, and the strategy nearly worked. Cherryville pitcher Steven Justice got Dusty Garver to rap into a force play at third for the second out.
However, the tiring Justice then issued a walk to Jason Beaver to fill the bases. Izokovic followed with the game-winning hit down the third base line.
On defense, Izokovic showed the athleticism that earned him all-conference honors in four sports at Burns High School. In the second inning, Izokovic robbed Post 100`s Paul Finger of a home run with a leaping catch over the top of the fence in left field.
Izokovic`s catch was one of several clutch plays by the Post 82 outfield. Another key one came in the top of the ninth inning, when center fielder Jamie Ray ran down a line drive at the fence, depriving Justin Keever of an extra-base hit.
The game evolved into a pitcher`s duel between Justice, the Post 100 ace, and Tyler Trice (5-0, 1.38 ERA).
Justice (4-2) gave his team every opportunity to win, pitching a complete game with eight strikeouts, seven hits allowed, and no bases on balls until the 10th.
Trice pitched a five-hitter through eight innings before yielding to Daniel Folk, who retired six of the seven batters to face him.
Error-prone all season, Cherryville put together its best defensive game of the year. The much-maligned infield turned four double plays in five innings, and shortstop Keever was involved in three of them. In the fifth, Keever made an unassisted force play at second and threw to first to complete the fourth double of the game.
Steven Hoyle (2-4) and Evan Wise (2-4) combined to get four of Cherryville`s six hits.
by Mike Powell