CHERRYVILLE–How did North Lincoln blow an 8-2 lead in the late innings with its ace, Josh Belk, on the mound?
The Knights have to asking themselves that question after falling to Cherryville 11-10 in eight innings Tuesday night.
The Ironmen added another chapter to their history of storied Fraley Field comebacks, scoring eight runs in the sixth inning to go ahead, and then eventually winning the game on an infield error in the bottom of the eighth.
Al Benson scored from second base on a two-out boot to give Cherryville the improbable win in front of a modest crowd that braved weather conditions more suited to football.
The error, North Lincoln`s sixth of the game, came on a routine grounder to second base off the bat of Seth Freeman. Benson rounded third base on the play and scored with relative ease to win a wild Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference game.
Cherryville, which won its second one-game in as many nights, pulled into a first place tie with Bessemer City, which kept pace with a 12-7 win over West Lincoln Tuesday. Both teams are 4-1 in the conference.
North Lincoln fell to 2-2 in the conference and 9-2 overall. If the Knights fail to make the playoffs, this was the kind of game that could come back to haunt them.
Cherryville (5-5, 4-1) staged another one of its improbable home field rallies. . The Ironmen trailed 8-2 going into the bottom of the sixth, but scored eight runs to go ahead 10-8, knocking out Belk in the process.
However, the Knights rallied to tie the game 10-10 in the top of the seventh on Kyle Baker`s two-out homer run over the left center field fence.
The Ironmen stranded a runner at second in the bottom of the seventh to send the game into extra innings.
Cherryville relief pitcher Steven Hoyle retired North Lincoln in order in the top of the eighth inning.
In the bottom of that inning, Benson reached on a bloop one-out single to short right field and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by North Lincoln reliever and loser Alex Loftin. Unfortunately for Loftin, he made a good pitch to end the inning but the error led to the winning run.
Freeman`s two-RBI triple in the gap in right center, his second hit of the inning, highlighted Cherrvyille`s eight-run bottom of the eighth.
Trent Hopkins went 4-for-4 to lead North Lincoln. Chris Hogue had two hits in four trips for the Knights. Freeman and Benson had two hits each for Cherryville.
North Lincoln outhit Cherryville 11-8, but the Ironmen had only one error whille the Knights imploded on defense.
“I don`t have words for it,” Cherryville coach Scottie Heavner said. “We showed all kinds of heart. We were down 8-2 with Belk on the mound. We could easily have folded, but we kept battling. I am proud of them.”
The Ironmen play West Lincoln at home Friday night at 7. North Lincoln hosts Lincolnton Friday.
by Mike Powell