The North Lincoln Knights advanced to the championship game of the Southern Foothillsâ€™ Conference Tournament with a 7-2 victory over Hendersonville.
The lightning that forced a continuation to Wednesday didnâ€™t slow down junior pitcher Alex Loftin.
Loftin (4-2) threw a complete game, struck out five batters and walked only one to earn the victory. Both Bearcatsâ€™ runs were unearned.
â€œI was just trying to throw strikes, keep the ball down and do the best I could. I had faith in my teammates behind me and just tried to make them hit the ball and put it in play,â€ the right-hander said.
â€œI canâ€™t say enough about Alex and his performance. When he gets that bunt down itâ€™s deadly,â€ Knightsâ€™ head coach Sean Andrews said.
Loftin also led the Knights at the plate going 2-for-4 with a RBI. Michael Gibson, Josh Belk, Trent Hopkins and Jeremy Grove each had a run batted in.
Brett Kasischke was the only Bearcat that had multiple hits. He went 2-for-3. Josh Miller suffered the loss.
With Hendersonville threatening to rally, Gibson, the Knightsâ€™ left fielder gunned Miller at third in the top of the sixth with the score 6-2.
Hopkins, who led the team in hitting with a .431 batting average, was excited by the opportunity of playing for a conference tournament championship.
â€œItâ€™s going to be awesome, especially in my second year. Lord willing, weâ€™re going to be able to win it, but second place thatâ€™s not bad. State playoffs the first time ever, hopefully we can go in there and do some damage,â€ he said.
Andrews was pleased with how his team responded, despite having to play two days to finish off their second-round opponent.
â€œWe came out ready to go. We wanted to get the job done yesterday, but we decided to wait one more day and finish it up,â€ he said.
Andrews turned out to be prophet when he spoke of how hard it was going to be to beat Cherryville with a 1A State Playoff berth on the line for the Ironmen.
â€œWeâ€™re going into it with the expectation of winning, but I know theyâ€™re going to come with everything theyâ€™ve got because if they win theyâ€™re in the playoffs. And I canâ€™t remember the last time they werenâ€™t in the playoffs,â€ he said.
Bearcats 100 001 0â€”2 6 1
North Lincoln 150 001 xâ€”7 8 3
by John Mark Brooks