CHERRYVILLE–The ghosts of Fraley Field haunted Caldwell County once again.
In another dramatic chapter of the Cherryville-Caldwell County American Legion baseball rivalry, Cherryville rallied from a 7-0 deficit to win 11-8 Sunday and stay alive in the 2005 American Legion State Tournament.
The stunning loss ended the season of Caldwell County, who came into the tournament with a glittering 33-6 record and the favorite`s role. Caldwell County lost its first game in the tournament Saturday to Eastern Randolph 9-2.
It was one of the most improbable wins for Cherryville in a rivalry known for comebacks, including Post 100 rallying from a 3-1 series deficit in the 1999 and 2003 Area Four finals against Caldwell.
“It`s another one of those unbelievable games between us and Caldwell County,” Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds said. “We feel real fortunate to win. This will be a chapter in a book about this series someday.”
After falling into the loser`s bracket with a 7-2 loss to Pitt County in Saturday`s opening round, Post 100 looked like a quick two-and-out Sunday afternoon when Cadlwell County jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the second inning.
But just when the home team`s prospects looked their bleakest, Cherryville came back to break Caldwell County`s heart again.
Post 100 (25-13) scored five runs in the third inning, two in the fourth, then struck for three in the seventh to break an 8-8 tie.
A group of unlikely heroes fueled Cherryville`s rally.
Closer Chris Cook, who had a sore arm earlier in the Area Four playoffs, came through with seven and two-third innings of clutch relief pitching. Although Cook gave up eight hits during his stint, he allowed only one run after relieving starting pitcher Wayne McDonald in the second inning
The bottom of the Post 100 batting order delivered big hits with runners on base. No. 9 hitter Josh Glover went 2-for-2 and scored three runs. Josh Day had a 3-for-3 game and slapped a two-out, two RBI single in the third to pull Cherryville to 7-5 and make a game of it.
And No. 8 hitter Evan Wise, who has struggled with his bat in the playoffs, broke an 8-8 tie in the seventh with a one-out single, took two bases on a sacrifice bunt by Glover and scored on a throwing error to put Post 100 up 10-8.
Dylan Anthony put the finishing touch on the rally with a solo homer in the same inning.
“Dreams really do come true, I guess,” said Wise. “You can`t ever count us out because we have too much heart.”
Caldwell County self-destructed with seven errors for the game, three of coming in the third inning when Cherryville scored five runs to climb back.
After Post 100 took an 11-8 lead, the drama continued into the ninth inning. Caldwell County had runners at first and second with one out and Elliott Collins at the plate, representing the potential tying run.
But Cook caught Collins looking at a third strike on the inside of the plate on a 3-2 count. He also worked the next hitter, Ryan Hightower, to a 3-2 count before striking him out on a breaking ball for the game-ending out.
“I can honestly say I was on my game today,” said Cook. “My curve was working the best it has, and I was hitting my spots. I had to make a few good pitches with a full count and I did.”
The tournament was plagued throughout the weekend by rain, and the first day on Friday was a washout. The event opened Saturday and four games were played.
On Sunday, a loser`s bracket game was moved to Sims Legion Park in Gastonia to avoid a conflict with church services. Action resumed Sunday at Fraley Field with the Cherryville-Caldwell County game.
However, the tournament ran afoul of the weather again in the winner`s bracket game between Shelby and Lexington. The game was halted by rain at 7:53 p.m. with Lexington ahead 6-3 through five complete innings.
The Fraley Field groundsâ€™ crew worked for nearly two hours to get the ball back in playable condition while state Legion commissioner Roy Waters conferred with his colleagues on the situation.
Finally, the head umpire ruled that the field was unsafe for play and Lexington was declared the winner. Waters made the announcement to a half-empty stadium shortly after 10 p.m.
In a reworked tournament bracket, action was to resume today with Pitt County playing Eastern Randolph in the winner`s bracket at 10 a.m., Cherryville playing Shelby at 1 p.m., Morehead City meeting the loser of Pitt County-Eastern Randolph at 4 p.m., and the Eastern Randolph-Pitt winner playing Lexington in the winner`s bracket final at 7 tonight.
Tuesday`s schedule will have games at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. The tournament will then conclude on Wednesday with the championship round at 4 p.m., and another game at 7 p.m. if necessary.
by Mike Powell