By RYAN HERMAN
PUMPKIN CENTER –– Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season and struggling of late, both North Lincoln and West Lincoln were in need of a boost.
On Friday, there was no loser.
The Rebels rallied with two runs in the top of the seventh inning to tie, and the weather decided that’s the way it would end as the teams finished knotted at 4.
It was the second tie in West Lincoln coach Allan Chapman’s 19-year career, he said, and the first for North Lincoln coach Jon Carpenter.
After giving up a 4-2 lead, the Knights left the winning run 90 feet away in the bottom of the seventh. In part due to a slippery mound, Zac Reeder walked Ashton Rana to start the eighth.
Before the extra inning began the umpires conferred with Carpenter and Chapman about prolonging the game –– it had been raining steadily since the third –– and the decision was made to play on.
After the walk the game was called.
West Lincoln (7-10-1), which had lost four of its last five heading in, had 11 hits, and got some much-needed production from the bottom-half of its lineup. North Lincoln (9-9-1), which had dropped three of four, got a solid start out of Mitchell Keener and each of its six hits were productive.
“I think we had more hits in this game than we’ve had in our last two conference games, so we hit the ball a little bit better,” Carpenter said. “We’ve had a lot of close games where he haven’t laid down, and we’ve had a lot of close games where haven’t laid down and lost. They’ve done pretty good this year (in close games).”
The Knights scored two runs on three hits in the third off Rebels starter Sam High. Cameron Walker and Zach McGinnis both singled for North Lincoln’s first hits of the game, and both scored on Brian Seymour’s base knock up the middle for a 2-0 lead.
North Lincoln extended its lead in the fourth when Ty Pauley’s lead-off single led to a two-out, RBI hit for Walker. Pauley stole second, then took third when West Lincoln’s Ethan Heafner caught Ricky Anthony’s popup at first and mistakenly rolled the ball to the mound thinking he made the third out.
Jake Bradley got things going for the Rebels with a lead-off triple to start the fifth, and scored a batter later on Heafner’s infield hit that took a bad hop in front of McGinnis at short and prevented the potential groundout.
Matt Bumgarner sacrificed pinch runner Chandler Jenkins to second, and after moving to third on a wild pitch, he scored on Tommy Garwood’s sac fly.
Pauley started the bottom of the sixth with a hit, and after stealing second and third, he made it 4-2 when he scored on a wild pitch.
Keener, who worked out of trouble several times thanks to his defense, walked Bradley then gave up a hit to Jenkins to put on the tying runs to start the seventh. Carpenter then pulled Keener for Reeder, whose wild pitch moved the runners into scoring position. Bumgarner singled off Reeder to tie, then was thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double.
Cody Dellinger and Garwood followed with back-to-back singles, but Reeder left them at third and second, respectively, to get out of the half-inning with a blown save albeit a tie.
Caleb Adams, who took over for Sam High with two away in the sixth, yielded a lead-off walk to McGinnis. Adams struck out Zach Avery and Seymour, and on the first pitch to Reeder McGinnis took off for second. Bradley’s throw down was late and sailed into the outfield, allowing McGinnis to take third on the error –– West Lincoln’s fourth of the game.
Reeder was then put on intentionally, and Adams ran the count full to Gabe Ellis. But Adams caught Ellis looking to end the threat and extend the game.
“We talked about before the game just finding the motivation to play. I’m proud of them, the way they came out, and were able to get out of that last inning,” Chapman said. “We scored some key runs against Reeder, who’s a great pitcher. I’m real proud of the effort and the willingness to fight.
“I don’t know if was (because) it was out of conference and maybe a little less pressure, but we just had a little different look in our eye, a little different effort and motivation. We played like we should have played all year.”
Pauley went 2-for-3 and scored twice and Walker went 2-for-3 with a run and an RBI. High struck out six in 5 2/3 innings while Adams struck out the side in the seventh.
Keener had only one strikeout, but Pauley threw out a pair of would-be base stealers. Keener also benefited from a 6-4-3 double play that erased a lead-off single in the fourth.
Dellinger went 2-for-3, Garwood went 1-for-2 with a walk, Rana went 2-for-3 and Bradley went 2-for-2 with a walk.
Not playing in an Easter tournament this year, North Lincoln will face Lincolnton in a junior varsity/varsity doubleheader today and Tuesday with today’s games at Lincolnton and Tuesday’s here, beginning at 4 p.m. The Knights will be off until April 29 when they host Statesville, and will travel to West Iredell on May 1.
West Lincoln will face Crest at 4 p.m. on Tuesday in the first day of the Shelby Invitational Easter Tournament at Shelby High. The Rebels will have games against opponents to be determined on Wednesday and Thursday, and will wrap up the regular season next week at Bandys and at East Lincoln.
Conference tournaments begin on May 5.