It was the hit every player dreams about. With a scorching shot down the third baseline, senior Dustin Weaver brought triumph and tragedy all in one swing.
Weaverâ€™s game-winning RBI single gave Lincolnton a 2-1 victory over West Lincoln in both teamâ€™s Midwest 2A Conference opener. Four out of the last five games the Rebels have lost by one run.
At the beginning of the bottom of the seventh, Matt Huss walked. The Rebels removed Ryan Rhodes, who had dominated the entire game.
A passed ball advanced Snyder to second. Then Jeffery Hurt, who has been in an early-season slump, broke out of it in a big way.
After a dead sacrifice bunt right in front of home plate by Justin Green, Hurt laced a line drive into left center scoring Snyder and tying the game at one.
The timely double didnâ€™t surprise Wolvesâ€™ head coach Cole Sigmon.
â€œThe Hurt kid was due, heâ€™s been struggling, struggling. In the scrimmages, he tore it up and I knew he was due,â€ he said.
Hurt then made his mark as a base runner. On a ball hit to Rebelsâ€™ third baseman Heath Cole, Hurt, after seeing Cole was throwing to first, alertly made it to third with two outs.
It was heads up play by both Cole and Hurt. On the play, Cole looked back Hurt for as long as he could before throwing to first.
With a 2-1 count Weaver crushed the ball down the line, then on cue turned around and sprinted towards home plate where his teammates mobbed him.
â€œThe first pitch I was a little too anxious. The third pitch was the same thing a fastball, outside. Right before that, coach told me not to be anxious and wait back. So I waited back for it, took it down the third baseline, got lucky, and went right down the line,â€ a euphoric Weaver said after the game.
Rebelsâ€™ head coach Allan Chapman felt Rhodesâ€™ pitch count had gotten too high.
â€œWe thought about it (leaving him in), but he walked him on four straight pitches. His pitch count was over 100 and heâ€™s only a sophomore. To see him throw between 100-120 pitches as good as he is, we werenâ€™t willing to do that,â€ he said.
Before Rhodes left the game in the bottom of the seventh, he had surrendered only one hit on an infield ground ball by Will Fox. Fox was ruled safe on a bang, bang play at first. The sophomore struck out eight batters on the night.
The game was as entertaining as a baseball game can get with Rhodes and Snyder matching each other pitch-for-pitch, allowing no runs for six innings. Lincolntonâ€™s senior southpaw struck out nine pitching a complete game.
In the top of seventh with the bases loaded, Snyder made the defensive play of the night, as he charged a Cole dribbler then flipped it to catcher Nate Wright. The play allowed them to get Paydon Houser at home for the second out of the inning.
The next batter Daniel Scronce smoked a liner to center giving the Rebels a 1-0 lead, scoring Johnathon Wise.
Sigmon, whose adrenaline still was high, was proud of the game both teams produced.
â€œIt was a great ballgame. I mean if you donâ€™t like ballgames like this (pause) itâ€™s just a great game,â€ he said.
â€œThey (the Rebels) donâ€™t have anything to be ashamed of. A hit here and a hit there and it could be the other way around,â€ he added.
Chapman, who was understandably very disappointed by loss, felt the Wolves won the game.
â€œThe Hurt kid hit a pitch that was high and away. I tell our kids all the time, 95-percent of baseball games are lost. When you get in one of those five percent games where somebody actually wins, you know youâ€™ve played a heck of a game. We won that game, but they just took it away from us,â€ he said.
â€œThe losses before, the kids were disappointed, but this loss was emotional. First conference game, county game and the pain in some of their eyes, some of the young kids, is really hard to describe,â€ Chapman said.
Sigmon believes Weaverâ€™s ability to keep himself alive at the plate was key to his first game-winning hit on the varsity level.
â€œHe just battles. Heâ€™s going to put the ball in play and he hit it in the right spot.â€
The Wolves improve to 3-3, 1-0 Midwest 2A, while the Rebels fall to 2-5, 0-1.
Jake Watts, who suffered the loss, did a good job of hitting his spots and at the plate singled. Paul Finger, Houser and Scronce had a hit. Daniel Smith walked twice.
Hurt and Fox both went 1-for-3, while Weaver the gameâ€™s hero went 1-for-4.
West Lincoln 000 000 1â€”1 4 0
Lincolnton 000 000 2â€”2 3 0
Kyle Snyder and Ryan Rhodes was an intriguing matchup. It was a senior versus an underclassman.
While Snyder showed why heâ€™s one of best pitchers in the county, Rhodes demonstrated promising talent and potential being realized.
Snyder pitched a compete game, allowing only four hits with one earned run. Rhodes pitched six innings, striking out eight and allowed only one hit. He received a no-decision.
â€œI donâ€™t even know if we got a hit off their guy. I mean he is good. Kyle did a great job. I mean itâ€™s a great game,â€ Sigmon said.
Chapman was equally impressed with the two southpaws.
â€œRyan has done that all year. When he throws strikes, he shuts people out. Iâ€™ve been so impressed from the time he came into tryouts through tonight. Heâ€™s thrown the ball well. He matched a senior (Snyder) whoâ€™s been throwing in the mid-80s pitch for pitch and heâ€™s only a sophomore.â€
Dustin Weaver is mobbed at home plate after his game-winning hit Tuesday night. It was Weaverâ€™s first ever game-winning hit on the varsity level. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
Sophomore lefty Ryan Rhodes pitched six scoreless innings Tuesday night before having to be removed due to an excessive pitch count. He struck out eight on the night. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
by John Mark Brooks