GRANITE FALLS–Cherryville had favored Caldwell County reeling a bit and perhaps thinking about recent playoff history.
But Post 100 made too many mistakes and gave the defending Area Four champions too many outs in a couple of innings.
Trailing 5-0 in front of a crowd estimated at 700, Caldwell County started its rally by scoring four unearned runs in the fifth inning.
Two innings later, Russell Reid hit a three-run homer after a pair of infield hits, and Caldwell County went on to win game one of the best-of-five semifinal series 7-5 Thursday night.
The series shifts to Cherryville`s Fraley Field tonight for game two and back to M.S. Deal Stadium Saturday for game three.
Cherryville (23-10) has won five straight playoff series against Caldwell County, but that streak is in jeopardy after last night.
“We gave them some unearned runs and let them get back in the ballgame,” Cherryville coach Bobby Reynolds said. “We didn`t make errors on purpose, but they are big when it is the semifinals of the area championship.”
Back-to-back infield errors in the fifth inning with one out, then a walk to load the bases, set the stage for Caldwell County`s comeback.
Instead of being out of the inning with his 5-0 lead intact, Post 100 ace Wayne McDonald had to face the meat of the Caldwell County batting order with every base occupied.
Casey Justice hit a double off the wall in left field to score two runs, and Brandon York`s grounder brought home another run. Reid followed with a run-scoring single to pull Caldwell County to 5-4.
Cherryville needed to answer the shift in momentum, but came up empty in the sixth and seventh innings against Post 29 lefthander Alex Fairweather, who retired six of seven batters to face him during that stretch.
In the bottom of the seventh, McDonald was one out away retiring the side when Justice hit a slow roller to the right of the mound and beat it out for an infield hit.
The next batter, York, hit a grounder in the direction of Post 100 second baseman Paul Finger, but Finger broke for second to cover a steal attempt and was not in position to make the routine play. The ball rolled into right field for a hit.
Reid was up next, and he drove the first pitch from McDonald over the left field wall for a three-run homer to put Caldwell ahead 7-5.
Cherryville went down in order in the eighth but got two runners on base in the top of the ninth on a single by Steven Hoyle and an infield boot. However, with the go-ahead run at the plate, Fairweather got Dylan Anthony to hit into a force play for the second out.
Finger was then thrown out at second on a steal attempt for the game-ending out.
McDonald (6-1) struck out 11 and gave up 10 hits in going the distance. The loss was the first of the year for the Burns High product.
“Wayne deserved a lot better fate for his effort. I wish we could have done a little more for him,” Reynolds said.
Hoyle had a two-run double in the second inning and went 3-for-4 for the game. Finger, Brock Alexander and Cliff Piercy had RBI hits in Cherryville`s three-run top of the fifth.
Reid went 2-for-4 with four RBI to lead Caldwell County, which has won seven straight playoff games to move to 28-4 overall.
Notes: Post 29 catcher Brandon York will be difficult to run on in the series. He threw out the two baserunners who tested him in the seriesâ€™ opener. … Reynolds would not disclose a starting pitcher for tonight, but it is Steven “Red” Justice`s turn in the rotation. Justice lasted less than three innings in his last start in game two of the Gastonia series.
Ch 020 030 000â€”5 11 3
Cald 000 040 30xâ€”7 10 3
McDonald and Glover. Fairweather and York. W–Fairweather. L–McDonald (6-1). HRs-Caldwell County, Reid.
by Mike Powell