By RYAN HERMAN
SHELBY –– A first Area IV championship wasn’t in the cards for the Lincoln County Cardinals.
Dustin Greene side-armed his way to six innings of scoreless relief, and an inning in which Post 455 committed three errors led to a pair of unearned runs as Shelby Post 82 won 4-2 in a winner-take-all contest on Monday at Shelby High School for its eighth Area IV championship and first since 2001.
Both teams now get a few days to rest before competing in the American Legion N.C. state tournament, which begins on Friday in Wilson.
While the goal of winning a state title remains alive, Lincoln County’s season-long goal of winning its first Area IV championship in program history was burst in part due to one bad inning.
“Our goal was to win the area championship. That’s the goal we set,” left fielder Jacob Hoover said. “I’m disappointed. I’m always disappointed when we lose. Losing the area championship, that ain’t a good feeling.
“Things just didn’t go our way today,” he added. “We made too many errors to win.”
The Cardinals (20-14), who had never played this deep into the season before Monday, went toe-to-toe with perennial power Post 82 (34-7) for the first two innings.
Then things went south in the bottom of the third.
Post 455 allowed a run to score on a fielding error, and another to score on a wild pitch after Dustin Jones moved into scoring position on a throwing error following his infield hit.
The 2-0 Shelby lead didn’t last long. The Cardinals tied it in their half of the fourth on a run-scoring hit by Danny Sullivan and Bryan Seymour’s sac fly.
Clay Hodges started the inning by legging out an infield hit, then Randal Ortiz singled to left. Sullivan drove home Hodges before Hoover singled to load the bases, and the four consecutive hits were enough to force Shelby starter Grant Byers from the game.
Greene entered and promptly retired the side but not before Seymour’s sacrifice to center field allowed Ortiz to tag, score and tie.
Greene’s right-handed side-armed delivery was enough to keep Lincoln County off balance the last five innings. Hoover singled in the sixth and Seymour singled and stole second in the seventh but nothing else happened for the Cardinals.
Greene struck out five and walked none for his 10th win of the year.
While Greene silenced Post 455’s explosive offense, his own bats gave him just the support he needed.
Shelby went back on top on an RBI hit by Jay Seagle in the fifth, then added its fourth and final run in the sixth when Phillip Brock scored on Lincoln County’s fourth error of the game.
Hayden Deal (5-4) suffered the tough-luck loss. The lefty gave up three runs, one earned, on four hits in five innings. He walked one and struck out three.
Bradley Hallman relieved Deal in the sixth. He retired the side in order on strikeouts in the seventh, and worked around a lead-off hit and hit-by-pitch in the eighth.
But Lincoln County, which had only six hits –– two by Hoover –– couldn’t add its name to the list of Area IV champions.
The team still has the state tournament to shoot for. The Cardinals will open the eight-team, five-day, double-elimination event at Fleming Stadium against Area III champion Randolph County (31-5) at 12:30 p.m. on Friday.
“We made it to the states, which that is a pretty big accomplishment,” Hoover said. “We’re going to go down there to win it, take it in and enjoy it.”