By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Cherryville Post 100 isn’t ready to forfeit winning its seventh consecutive American Legion Area IV championship just yet.
Post 100 went ahead with three runs in the eighth inning after failing to get a hit, and Brett Huff and Clay Fuller homered as it defeated Lincoln County Post 455 7-6 on Thursday at East Lincoln High School to stave off elimination and force a Game 4 in the best-of-five semifinal series.
The teams will meet again at Cherryville’s Fraley Field at 7 tonight with Lincoln County holding a two-games-to-one lead.
And until the eighth inning it looked as if the Cardinals might finish off the six time defending Area IV champ with a sweep.
Their pitching fell apart, and Post 100 (17-14) took advantage.
Having worked its way out of three consecutive walks to begin the seventh with only one run allowed, the eighth began the same way but this time Lincoln County (19-12) wasn’t as fortunate.
Dalton Towery, Caleb Narron and Josh Beam drew walks off reliever Danny Sullivan, and all three wound up scoring on the combination of three wild pitches, a fielding error and a balk.
That made it 7-6 and was enough to keep Post 100’s season alive.
“You get to play another game. You don’t have to put (the equipment) up,” Cherryville manager Bobby Reynolds said. “That’s our objective, no matter how you get it done.”
Before having to rally in the eighth, Post 100 muscled its way to an early three-run lead.
Huff, who went 2-for-4, clubbed a 2-0 fastball over the left-field fence for its first run, then Fuller sent one the opposite direction for a two-run shot two batters later that scored he and Brandon Alexander, who singled.
The two homers were all the damage Cardinals starter Bradley Hallman allowed, before being pulled for Randal Ortiz to start the seventh.
Hallman gave up three runs on four hits, walked three and struck out four in six innings in the no-decision. He left with a two-run lead his bullpen couldn’t hold.
Ortiz struggled with his command and walked the first and only three he faced –– Beam, Tyler Shumaker and Cameron High. Huff followed with a single that scored Beam, but Post 100, which left 12 on base, got no more.
The top third of the order for Cherryville began the eighth in identical fashion, and this time made the most of it.
“We left a ton of runners on base,” Reynolds said. “We’ll see what happens tomorrow night at (our) park.”
Nathaniel Scoggins homered for Lincoln County in the sixth and Clay Hodges, who went 3-for-5, continued his hot streak in the series with an RBI double two batters later that scored Ortiz that staked itself to a 5-3 lead.
After Post 100 got a run back in the top of the seventh, the Cardinals got it back on Scoggins’ fourth RBI of the night when he singled home Salter, who walked, stole second then moved to third on an error.
From then on Derrick Brawn was dominant. The closer entered prematurely with two away in the third when starter Alex Johnson left with an injury, and filled in nicely.
Brawn gave up two runs on six hits, walked two and struck out six. He allowed a lead-off single to Hallman in the ninth, ran a 1-2 count on Justin Norton and was pulled for High.
High struck out Norton, got Nick Savoie to fly out then fanned Scoggins to end the game and continue his team’s season.
“We hadn’t used (Brawn) the whole series so he was fresh,” Reynolds said. “He was effective for us. He’s really our next effective pitcher. We pulled the trigger and decided to saddle him and ride him until he ran out.”
For Post 455 manager Bruce Bolick, his team’s late-inning struggles on the mound were a product of the game it plays.
“That’s just baseball. Those things happen,” he said after the Cardinals streak of six straight wins came to a halt. “The guys that I brought in have done the job for us. It happens on the big-league level. It happens everywhere.”
Lincoln County 3, Cherryville 1: Hayden Deal and Darin Salter combined to outpitch Heath King and Clay Hodges went 4-for-4 as the Cardinals pushed Post 100 to the brink Wednesday with the Game 2 win.
Deal pitched seven strong innings, giving up one run on seven hits, walked one and struck out four. Salter came on in the eighth and only gave up a one-out walk in the ninth for the save.
Hodges doubled in the first and third innings, singled and scored in the sixth, and singled home a run and scored in the seventh.
Danny Sullivan drove in a run with a hit in the sixth and Jacob Hoover’s groundout added a run in the same inning in what was a scoreless game through five.
Hunter Jackson’s two-out double scored Cameron High in the sixth for Post 100’s only run.
High went 2-for-3 with a walk and scored a run. King went the distance, giving up three earned runs on nine hits with five strikeouts.
P455 000 002 100––3 9 1
P100 000 001 000––1 7 0
Deal, Salter (8) and Bowden; King and Jackson. W––Deal. L––King. Sv––Salter.
P100 030 000 130––7 5 3
P455 021 002 100––6 11 3
Johnson, Brawn (3), High (9) and Jackson; Hallman, Ortiz (7), Sullivan (7), Salter (8) and Bowden. W––Brawn. L––Sullivan. Sv––High.