By RYAN HERMAN
VALE –– In its first two games West Lincoln’s baseball team hardly resembled the one that tied a school record last spring with 24 wins and reached the fourth round of the state playoffs.
It’s starting to look like its old self again.
Cody Dellinger went 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Kenny Stevens and Sam High combined to two-hit North Lincoln and the Rebels scored six runs in the sixth inning Wednesday to beat the Knights 8-2.
West Lincoln (2-2) opened the season with a 7-6 loss in extra innings at North Gaston on Feb. 26, then was blown out 14-1 in five innings by Cherryville two days later for its first two-game losing streak since back-to-back losses at Valdese Draughn and Kings Mountain March 5-7, 2012.
The Rebels got it together in their 5-0 conference-opening win over Lincolnton, and continued to improve on Wednesday.
“We’re starting to do some things a little better,” West Lincoln coach Allan Chapman said. “We’re going to have some days where we don’t play well because we’re so inexperienced and have so many new guys trying to fill voids. But, they’re pretty talented and some days they’re going to play well.
“We’re just going to have to live with the ups and downs until we get a little more consistent.”
Or persistent, which happened against the Knights.
North Lincoln reliever Seth McCorie seemed to be in command to start the sixth. He retired Chandler Jenkins on a groundout, then threw a first-pitch strike to Ashton Rana before North Lincoln coach Jon Carpenter came out to question whether the Rebels had batted out of order.
When the ball was put back in play –– West Lincoln’s batting order was correct –– Rana blooped a single just past the infield dirt.
A wild pitch sent pinch runner Tanner Bolton to second, and McCorie got Charles Mack George to one-hop a ball back to the mound. But instead of getting the sure out at first, McCorie opted to go for the out at third but his throw to get Bolton was late, putting runners at the corners for High.
High laced a 1-0 fastball into right to score Bolton and George, who stole second, and the rout was on.
“We hung in there and played good enough to compete. (West Lincoln) played well,” Carpenter said. “We struggled at the plate. That was what hurt us.”
Jake Bradley followed with an RBI single, and Tommy Garwood drew a five-pitch walk. Dellinger’s two-run double down the right-field line scored Bradley and Garwood, and Dellinger scored on an RBI hit up the middle by Alec Johnson after he moved to third on McCorie’s third wild pitch of the inning.
McCorie made it back around to Jenkins, who walked on four straight pitches, and Carpenter went to the mound to make a change.
Ryan Smith stopped the bleeding by fanning Bolton after an eight-pitch at-bat, but the decision by McCorie to go for the lead runner earlier in the inning cut a wound too deep.
“That hurt more than anything,” Carpenter said.
Before West Lincoln’s offensive outburst in its last turn at-bat, the teams traded runs and entertained a dandy little pitchers’ duel.
Both Rebels starter Kenny Stevens and North Lincoln starter Mitchel Keener got through four innings in a pair of no-decisions as near equals.
Stevens, who pitched the night before in relief, left after giving up a pair of unearned runs on a hit, walked three and struck out two. Keener allowed one earned run on two hits, walked one and struck out three.
“We’ve been fortunate, I guess all year, that our pitching has kept us in games,” Chapman said. “As long as we catch it and get some timely hitting we’ll be OK.”
A throwing error by Dellinger allowed Zach McGinnis to score for a 1-0 Knights lead in the second. West Lincoln tied it the bottom of the third on Dellinger’s two-out RBI single.
North Lincoln (3-2), which had its mini two-game winning streak snapped after opening North Piedmont 3A/4A Conference play with a win over South Iredell on Tuesday, went up 2-1 in the fourth on McGinnis’ RBI groundout that scored Jimmy Scott. Scott reached base when his hard grounder went through the legs of George at third.
The Rebels again answered in the fifth. Bradley’s double put himself in scoring position for Garwood, who singled him home to tie.
High, who struck out five, walked one and gave up one hit in three scoreless innings of relief in the win, worked around a walk in the sixth and retired the side in order in the seventh.
Notes: North Lincoln’s non-conference game at Hickory, postponed last Friday, has been rescheduled for April 2 at 4:30 p.m. … West Lincoln and North Lincoln will play their second game of the home-and-home series on April 18. … North Lincoln picked up a forfeit win on Thursday when East Lincoln announced it had forfeited its first two wins due to its use of an academically ineligible player.