CHERRYVILLE–Just call it a typical Cherryville-Bessemer City baseball game.
In the third meeting of the season between these Gaston County rivals, and by far the most important, Bessemer City edged the Ironmen 6-5 Tuesday night in the Southern Piedmont 1A/2A Conference championship game.
Like the first two games this year, decided by a total of four runs, this one went down to the last out in the bottom of the seventh.
Cherryville, looking to add to the lore of Fraley Field with another last-inning comeback, had the tying run at second base with two outs in the person of Cameron Lovelace.
However, Bessemer City relief pitcher Michael Negus struck out Daniel Martin on a 3-2 pitch to end the game and complete the Jackets` title run.
Trailing 6-4 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Ironmen (14-10, 10-4) pulled within one run when Al Benson scored from third on a wild pitch.
It could have been deja vu at that point for the Jackets, who blew a late-inning lead against Cherryville in the first round of the Charlotte Observer Baseball Tournament on Aprill 17.
But Negus forced Lovelace to hit into a force play at scond and and sent Martin down swinging with a runner in scoring position.
Bessemer City (17-7, 11-3) scored four runs in the fifth inningn to erase a 4-2 deficit and to knock out Cherryville starting pitcher Steven Hoyle. Hoyle, who pitched a three-hitter in his last start at North Lincoln, was not as sharp as usual and was tagged for 10 hits by the Jackets before Cherryville coach Scottie Heavner yanked him.
Deavin Wilson, the No. 9 hitter in the BC lineup, was one of four players with two hits. Wilson had a RBI double in the second inning and a solo homer in the fifth that started Bessemer City`s big inning.
Bessemer City starter Michael Franklin got the win with relief help from Negus in the fifth. Both pitchers did a good job of controlling the top half of Cherryville`s batting order. Lead-off man Tripp McSwain went 1-for-4, Steth Freeman went 0-4 and struck out three straight times, and Hoyle went hitless in his last three at-bats after a first-inning single.
With the top of the lineup rendered harmless, Cherryville`s bottom hitters kept the Ironmen in the game. Brian Gardo, hitting eighth in the order, went 2-for-4 with four RBI.
Gardo doubled to the opposite field in the second to score two runs. In the fourth, Gardo hit a two-run homer to left that bounced off the outstretched glove of Bessemer City left fielder Thomas Staney and over the top of the fence railing.
The Ironmen also had scoring opportunities in the fifth and sixth innings but could not generate he key hit. Cherryville left runners stranded at second and third in the fifth and could not take advantage of Jeremy Craft`s one-out double in the sixth.
“It was another hard-fought Cherryville-Bessemer City ballgame, and I think we gave the fans what they came for. We are just happy we came out on top. It was a big win for us,” said Bessemer City coach Mike Mahaffey.
After his team was hit hard by graduation last year and picked to finish in the middle of the pack this year, Mahaffey called the SPC title run “a very pleasant surpriise.”
In the other dugout, Cherryville coach Scottie Heavner said the game was everything he thought it would be.
“It was back and forth, down to the last inning, down to the last out, down the last pitch. The game was played at such a high emotional level. They played well and we played well. It was just two good baseball teams going head to head,” Heavner said.
Gardo, Craft and Lovelace had two hits for Cherryville. Winning pitcher Frankkin moved to 7-3 while Hoyle fell to 4-3 with the loss.
Both teams will be in action Monday in the conference tournament. Bessemer City opens at home against last-place Highland Tech. As the No. 2 seed, Cherryville gets a home game against the No. 7 seed, either South Iredell or Lincolnton.
by Mike Powell