It had been five years since the West Lincoln Rebels had won the Easter Tournament at Lincolnton High School.
Winning their fourth-consecutive game, the Rebels used solid pitching and timely hitting to beat the Lincolnton Wolves 8-4 at Brookinsâ€™ Memorial Field.
Junior Chris Henderson battled through a couple of rough spots to pitch a complete game two-hitter. The right-hander used a live fastball, curveball and change-up to rack up six strikeouts.
At the plate, he wasnâ€™t too shabby either. Already up 1-0, courtesy of a Henderson RBI, he hit a liner over shortstop to score Daniel Scronce.
Jonathan Wise and freshman Jake Watts added two more RBIs to allow West to take a 4-0 lead.
Lincolnton mustered one run in the fourth, courtesy of hustle. Senior Shane Brackett, who reached via error, advanced to second then scored on wild pitches.
Henderson was a little shaky, walking junior Kenny Reed and hitting Kyle Snyder to load the bases with one out. However, the Wolves were unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
Henderson got a pop-up and strikeout get out of the inning.
Senior Daniel Scronce, who was 1-for-his-previous-8, changed that in a big way in the bottom of the fourth. A line-drive homerun over the right-field fence gave West a 6-1 lead.
Perhaps, more importantly the blast helped swing the momentum back into the Rebelsâ€™ corner. Wise lined one to left field to score Paul Finger.
Henderson, who like Finger reached on an error, scored putting the Rebels in the driverâ€™s seat up 8-1.
The Wolves, led by strong senior leadership, werenâ€™t ready to submit answering the top of the fifth.
A Brackett liner to center scored Dustin Weaver, who had walked. Will Fox then scored on a passed ball. Matt Kuster hit a sac-fly RBI to right that scored Brackett, enabling the Wolves to cut the lead to 8-4.
Henderson ended the inning with a strikeout, preventing further damage.
He then retired the Wolves three-up, three-down in the top of the seventh, prompting the Rebelsâ€™ dugout to spill onto the field in celebration.
An excited Allan Chapman, whose team had just strung together theyâ€™re fourth-consecutive win, believed it was just a matter of time before things turned around.
â€œThe only difference now is weâ€™re winning one-run games instead of losing them. Weâ€™ve been very competitive all year and we feel like we have a good team,â€ he said.
Chapman also knew Lincolnton wasnâ€™t going to go quietly, despite having built a big early lead.
â€œOf course, theyâ€™re a good ball team. They got a lot of pride and Cole (Sigmon) does a great job with them. We expected a push there in the middle to late innings and they gave it to us. And Iâ€™m just proud of our guys the way they held on,â€ he said.
Henderson was named Tournament MVP after the game, which caught the humble pitcher off-guard.
â€œIt feels great to be MVP. I didnâ€™t think I had a shot at it. Itâ€™s unreal. Itâ€™s a great feeling,â€ he said.
More than the Wolves lack of hitting, one numberâ€”6 stood out to Lincolnton head coach Cole Sigmon. Thatâ€™s the number of errors his team, who is normally a solid defensive team, committed.
â€œYou canâ€™t beat a good team when you make six errors. The errors we made, we canâ€™t beat good teams and West Lincolnâ€™s pretty good. They donâ€™t kick it. They hit it when they need to. If you give them one or two, theyâ€™re going to get them,â€ he said.
â€œYou canâ€™t make errors and win,â€ he added.
Weaver, who was named to the All-Tournament team after the game, felt one inning served as a detriment to getting the win.
â€œThe key inning was the fourth. It was 4-1 and I knew we were going to start hitting the ball, but they came up with four runs and made it 8-1. That just put us in a bigger hole and our bats need to do a lot more,â€ he said.
Scronce and Finger led the Rebels at the plate, both going 2-for-4. Scronce had two RBIs. Henderson and Wise also had two RBIs. Watts, like Wise, went 1-for-3.
Kuster and Brackett both went 1-for-3 with a RBI apiece to lead the Wolves. Weaver and Snyder both reached twice.
Lincolnton 000 130 0â€”4 2 6
West Lincoln 103 400 xâ€”8 7 1
Easter All-Tournament team
Greyson Schram, East Lincoln
Payden Houser, West Lincoln
Alex Loftin, North Lincoln
Jake Black, East Lincoln
Paul Finger, West Lincoln
Nate Wright, Lincolnton
Daniel Scronce, West Lincoln
Dustin Weaver, Lincolnton
Michael Gibson, North Lincoln
Pitchers: Jake Watts, West Lincoln and Chris Henderson, West Lincoln.
MVP: Chris Henderson.
by John Mark Brooks