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Yellow Jackets sting Rebels 8-6

The West Lincoln Rebels (15-6, 7-4) let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers. Having won seven games in a row and with a chance to put themselves in first place, the Rebels fell 8-6 to Bessemer City (14-7, 9-3) on their home field.
Devin Shufford turned out to be the difference-maker for the Yellow Jackets. Using a live fastball and nasty curveball, the southpaw worked six and one-third innings, struck out nine batters and scattered five hits for the win.
“That’s the best game he’s pitched all year. He did a great job. He kept them off-balance, was getting his curveball over for strikes. He did a great job,” Bessemer City head coach Mike Mahaffey said.
Rebels head coach Allan Chapman agreed; his team was never able to get comfortable in the batter’s box.
“I thought he struggled early, then he got command of his curveball and kept us off-balance. We were out on our front foot all night long and unfortunately we never really got the big hit,” he said.
Down 8-4, after a Daniel Smith RBI-single, Chase Harbinson sent a fly ball to right-center. Over in plenty of time, the centerfielder attempted a one-handed catch instead of camping under it. The result was a dropped ball that allowed Paul Finger and Gene Arp to score.
With the winning run represented at the plate, reliever Michael Franklin ended the game with a strikeout.
“I just had a word with my outfielders about getting under the ball and catching it with two hands because we’re not pro athletes,” Mahaffey said, vowing that same type of mistake wouldn’t happen again.
While it left the Rebels with a glimmer of hope, Chapman was disappointed his team came out flat in a game of so much magnitude.
“You got a chance with the long ball. It’s definitely an opportunity there, but realistically probably wasn’t nothing going to happen. They beat us all night and they deserved to win,” he said.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third, back-to-back bunts by Chase Beam and Devin Wilson loaded the bases for the Yellow Jackets. Zac Williams played the role of opportunist, sending a line drive into left, allowing both to score and giving Bessemer its first lead of the game.
After a Trey Blake bunt loaded the bases, a wild pitch scored Wilson and Williams upping the lead to 4-1. Geoffrey Shiver closed out the scoring in the inning with a RBI-single.
So did the Jackets see a weakness in the Rebels defense?
“No. It’s just we haven’t been bunting the ball well all year long and we’ve been working on it in practice. We’ve been beat a couple of games this year because other teams bunted and we didn’t make plays,” Mahaffey said. “We have to get our bunts down when we need to get them down, make the defense do something with it and make them boot the ball around,” he added.
Wilson went 2-for-2 with one RBI to lead the Jackets at the plate. Shiver and Blake both went 2-for-4. Williams was 1-for-2 with three RBIs.
“It was a big win for us, but we have another very important ballgame coming next week. We can’t have any mental letdowns and we got to get after it,” Mahaffey said.
Junior Ryan Rhodes suffered the loss for West Lincoln, working four innings, allowing nine hits, striking out one and surrendering five runs.
Junior Payden Houser went 2-for-4 to pace the Rebels.
Tyler High, Chris Henderson and Smith had one RBI apiece.
Despite the seven-game win streak coming to an end, Chapman still is happy with how his team is playing.
“We’re still playing well. You got to be playing your best heading into the tournament and take a shot in the conference tournament,” he said.
Both teams turned in spectacular plays on defense. Shortstop Blake barehanded a slow-grounder and threw to first baseman Tyler Bridges, who went into a complete split to record the out in the bottom of the fourth.

Tyler High turned in a spectacular catch in left field and had a RBI in a losing cause on the Rebels’ home field. Chris Dean / LTN Photo

West Lincoln’s first baseman Jonathan Thomas and leftfielder High both turned in two great catches—Thomas’ diving to haul in a foul ball and High made a sliding catch to rob what looked to be a certain base hit.
Henderson threw out two attempted base stealers behind the plate.
by John Mark Brooks

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