CHERRYVILLEâ€”Which pitching staff has the most left in the tank?
That question will be answered in the decisive game five of the Cherryville-Shelby series tonight at Shelbyâ€™s Veterans Field.
Shelby (17-10) shredded Cherryvilleâ€™s pitching for 17 hits Thursday night in a 11-5 victory that evened the Area Four first round series 2-2.
Every starter in the Post 82 lineup either scored or hit safely in a game that turned on one swing of the bat.
O.J. McFarland, the Shelby catcher, hit a grand slam in the fourth inning off Post 100 reliever Chris Cook to break a 4-4 tie.
Cook, who relieved starting pitcher Steven â€œRedâ€ Justice, was one out away from pitching out of a bases-loaded jam when he served up a 2-0 fastball that McFarland blasted out of the deepest part of the ballpark in right center.
After that, Shelby was in command the rest of the way, adding three runs in the fifth to extend the lead to seven.
While it is true that few leads are safe in hitter-friendly Fraley Field, Post 100 could not mount a rally against Post 82 starting pitcher Tyler Trice and reliever Trey Glass.
Trice, who started game one of the series, left with a 11-5 lead, and Glass came on the seventh and held Cherryville to one hit and no runs.
Justice, who pitched brilliantly in a 1-0 loss in game one, did not have his best stuff in the sweltering heat. The Cherryville ace, going on two days rest, was tagged for nine hits and four runs before exiting with one out in the fourth.
â€œRed was a little high to begin with and couldnâ€™t get down in the zone,â€ Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds said. â€œPlus, they had already seen him for 10 innings. Good teams make adjustments.â€
Reynolds said he debated whether to start Justice or Justin Keever, who worked three and two-third innings of relief in Wednesdayâ€™s 8-6 win at Shelby.
â€œWe could have saved Justice and (Chris) Christensen for tomorrow, but we went the other way. Now we going to look for five or six good innings from Christensen, then go with Keever,â€ Reynolds said of his pitching strategy for game five.
Christensen, a left-hander, will work with two days rest after pitching nine innings in game two on Tuesday.
Reynolds theorized that Shelby will also go with its game two starter, right-hander Josh Drewery.
Shelbyâ€™s Jamie Ray set the tone for the game with a triple to right center on the first pitch thrown by Justice. Ray went on to have a 3-for-5 night with two runs scored.
Also for Shelby, Daniel Folk had a two-RBI triple, and McFarland went 2-for-5 with five RBI.
Shelby outhit Cherryville 17-7.
â€œThey outhit us, they outpitched us, and they just outplayed us tonight,â€ summed up Reynolds. â€œThis is the only game of the series I felt we deserved to lose.
â€œBut if you tell me before the series that we will be playing them one game to advance, I would take it. You never know what will happen.â€
The winner moves on to meet the Gaston Braves in the quarterfinal round starting Sunday. The Braves wrapped up a 3-0 sweep of Taylorsville on Wednesday.
Cook and Paul Finger hit solo home runs for Post 100.
Cherryville 8, Shelby 6
At Veterans Field, Fingerâ€˜s two-out, two RBI single to right broke a 6-6 tie in the top of the ninth, and Post 100 held on for the win.
Trailing 6-0 in the fifth, Shelby scored six unanswered runs to tie the contest heading into the ninth.
Folk, the third Shelby pitcher of the game, served up the game-winning hit. Finger drove a 2-1 pitch to right field after Evan Wise was intentionally walked to load the bases.
Keever got the win with three and two-third innings in relief of Wayne McDonald. The right-hander gave up five hits, two runs, one of them earned, waked one and struck out four.
Josh Glover, Keever, Cook, Bo Bridges and Finger had two hits each for a 13-hit Cherryville attack. Cook drove in three runs with a single, double and sacrifice fly.
Ray started Shelbyâ€™s rally with a two-run homer in the fifth. Drewery also homered in that inning to cut the deficit to three.
by Mike Powell