The North Lincoln Knights let a golden opportunity fall by the wayside Tuesday against Polk County, losing 12-9.
The loss forces the Knights (8-12, 7-3) to have to win both games at Bessemer City on Thursday in order to claim the Southern Foothillsâ€™ championship.
After a 13-0 dismantling of Maiden on Tuesday, the Yellow Jackets are 16-6, 9-1 in the SF 1A.
Conversely, if the Knights lose both games at Bessemer City, they would find themselves in third place behind Hendersonville. Hendersonville is currently 7-4 in conference play.
â€œWe had a perfect opportunity to go ahead and take even more control of getting into the playoffs. I think the pressure just got to us,â€ said North Lincoln head coach Sean Andrews. â€œIt wasnâ€™t the same team thatâ€™s been out there the last two weeks.â€
â€œThey were tense. They let the importance of the game take over, rather than just winning and doing what they could do,â€ he added.
Alex Loftin suffered the loss, working six and two thirds, striking out eight and allowing 14 hits.
Senior Ryan Pendleton led North Lincoln at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance with two RBIs. Josh Belk and Michael Gibson both collected two hits and two RBIs as well.
T.J. Skidmore went 2-for-2 with two runs scored.
In the fourth inning, Daniel McEntyre laced a triple to right-center. Andrews believes it was a huge momentum play in the game.
â€œThat got him going and their team followed him. Heâ€™s a senior and he leads by example,â€ he said of the speedy McEntyre would has 40 stolen bases on the season.
McEntyre went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Zack Edney and Josh Edwards both went 2-for-4 with two RBIs for the Wolverines.
Polk County scored four runs in the top of the seventh to take a 12-7 lead.
With one opportunity squandered, Andrews hopes his team wonâ€™t squander another one on Thursday.
â€œAt this point, the regular season conference championship is there, but I want to win at least one game so I can maintain second place,â€ he said.
â€œI donâ€™t want to think about losing two games on Thursday and dropping to third place.â€
Polk County 302 201 4â€”12 15 1
North Lincoln 321 001 2â€”9 14 2
by John Mark Brooks