SHELBY–American Legion baseball rivals Cherryville and Shelby just seem to bring out the best in each other.
At least, Shelby coach Mike Grayson thinks so.
“We knew it would be a tough series because of the rivalry,” Grayson said Friday night after Post 82 beat Cherryville 2-1 in game five of an opening round playoff series in Area Four.
“What you saw tonight was the best from both teams. I thought both teams exhibited a tremendous amount of pride.”
As it turned out, Shelby`s best was just enough to send Post 82 into the quarterfinals and end Cherryville`s season much earlier than usual.
Crafty right-hander Daniel Folk pitched a complete game, right-fielder Luke Dobbins made a game-saving catch, and No. 9 hitter Josh Izokovic drove in the winning run.
Making his fourth pitching appearance of the series, Folk scattered seven hits, struck out five and did not walk a batter. After giving up a first inning run, Folk pitched shutout baseball over the last eight innings.
The key was Folk`s control of his breaking pitch, which kept the Post 100 hitters off-stride.
“Folk threw the ball over the plate and changed speeds on us,” Cherryville coach Bobby Reynolds said. “As a result, we hit a lot of ground balls, mostly to second base. The bottom line was we did not hit enough.”
Defensively, Dobbins was the hero. One of three speedy players in the Shelby outfield, Dobbins ran down a smash off the bat of Steven Hoyle in the eighth inning.
Dobbins made the catch near the line in deep right field, robbing Hoyle of an extra-base hit.
Had Hoyle reached safely with no outs, he would have scored on Josh Glover`s single up the middle, and the game would have been tied 2-2.
Instead, Shelby (18-10) held on to its one-run lead, and Folk retired Cherryville in order in the top of the ninth.
“That was a double at least,” Reynolds said of the play. “We get a chance to bunt him (Hoyle) over and three shots to drive him in. But they played well defensively. That`s all you can say.”
As for Izokovic, he hit more like a lead-off batter instead of someone buried in the No. 9 slot. In the fourth inning, with the game tied 1-1, Izokovic looped a two-out single to left field to drive in Dusty Quattlebaum.
Izokovic, a four-sport all-conference performer at Burns last year, went 2-for-4 for the game and 7-for-22 for the series.
It appeared Post 100 might have success against Folk early. The visitors collected two hits in the first inning and took a 1-0 lead on Justin Keever`s groundout.
Cherryville got two more hits in the second inning but left the baserunners stranded. After that, Folk never allowed more than one baserunner in any inning.
On the other side, Post 100 pitchers Chris Christensen and Keever deserved a better fate. Working on two days rest, Christensen held Shelby to two runs over six innings, and one of those was unearned, the result of a disastrous outfield error in the third that allowed Shelby to tie the game.
Keever came on in the seventh and held Post 82 in check with two innings of scoreless relief.
However, the solid pitching was not enough to keep Cherryville`s season alive.
The national runner-up in the 2003 Legion playoffs, Cherryville finished the current season barely above .500 (15-14). It was an up-and-down year for a team that struggled to replace eight of nine starters.
Asked to look ahead to 2005, when Post 100 returns 14 of 18 players, Reynolds said, “Hopefully, we will have some kids go on to school and have a chance to walk-on at some places and get to make a team. We have to get better, especially at the plate. We got 14 of 18 coming back, but by no means does that mean those 14 will make it.”
On the bright side, two members of the starting pitching rotation, Steven “Red” Justice (4-3) and Wayne McDonald (4-1), have eligibility remaining.
The major losses will be Christensen, Keever, and outfielders Brian Ebert and Bo Bridges.by Amy Wadsworth