CHERRYVILLE–Only one of the favorites is still standing in the 2005 N.C. American Legion Baseball Tournament.
Pitt County survived a late-inning rally by host Cherryville and dismantled a lifeless Eastern Randolph team in two loserâ€™s bracket games Tuesday at Fraley Field.
The pair of wins sends the Area One champions into todayâ€™s championship round against Lexington at 4 p.m. Lexington, one of the surprise teams of the tournament, is 3-0 for the tournament, meaning Pitt will have to win two games to claim its first-ever title.
After holding on to eliminate Cherryville 10-7, Pitt pounded Eastern Randolph 10-0 in seven innings in the loserâ€™s bracket final.
The other two favorites, Shelby and Caldwell County out of Area Four, were eliminated by Cherryville, which won both games with dramatic comebacks.
Pitt County (27-5), however, refused to wilt under the pressure of another of Cherryvilleâ€™s famous Fraley Field comebacks. Pitt gave up two runs in the bottom of the ninth as Post 100 pulled to 10-7, but a controversial double play with the bases loaded defused the rally.
The sequence started when Chris Henderson lined out to Pitt first baseman Alex White on a check swing. White then made a lunging tag on Daniel Scronce as he scrambled back to first base, completing a double play.
However, Post 100 coach Bobby Reynolds protested the call, apparently arguing that White bumped Scronce but did not apply a tag.
Both base umpires conferred on the call, but the ruling stood. After Brock Alexander reached on an error to put runners at the corners, the game, and Post 100â€™s season, ended on a groundout by Evan Wise, who almost beat out an infield hit with a head-first dive.
Steven Hoyle turned in stellar tournament play going 9-for-18 at the plate. He had a five-hit game on Monday. Chris Dean / LTN Photo
Steven Cherry was the winning pitcher for Pitt in a relief role. He came on in the fifth with Pitt ahead 7-5 and Post 100 threatening. With Scronce on second with a double and one out, the lefthander struck out pinch hitters Cliff Piercy and Alexander to get out of trouble.
Cherry then confounded Post 100 with breaking pitches over the next three innings before needing relief help in the ninth.
Scronce went 3-for-5 with a RBI to lead Cherryville, which finished 2-2 for the tournament and 26-14 for the season.
Jason Cargile went 4-for-5 with three RBI to lead Pitt County.
Cherryvilleâ€™s Dylan Anthony flirted with a three-run homer in the seventh when he drove a 3-1 pitch from Cherry to deep left field; however, Pittâ€™s Mark Letchworth made the catch near the fence to preserve a 9-5 lead.
In the loserâ€™s bracket final, righthander Mike Hallow pitched a three-hit shutout over seven innings to lead Pitt into the championship round.
Pitt scored three runs in the third and five in the fifth inning to break the game open. Cargile and Josh Aston each had three hits to lead a 12-hit Pitt County attack.
Eastern Randolph (26-18) finally ran out of pitching after its staff, wth a collective ERA of nearly six runs per game, had performed above expectation through the first three games.
Lexington, which has wins over Morehead City, Shelby and Eastern Randolph in the winnerâ€™s bracket, will likely start ace lefthander Andrew Morton (12-0) in todayâ€™s final. Morton pitched a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts on Saturday in a 2-1 opening round win over Morehead City.
Pitt County, which appears to have the deepest staff in the field, may go with Alex White, who beat Cherryville 7-2 Saturday night.
by Mike Powell