By DAVID KEEVER
DENVER –– East Lincoln senior Nick Savoie went the distance on the mound for the Mustangs in their 4-2 first-round NCHSAA state 2A playoff win over Shelby at East Lincoln on Wednesday.
With the victory, East Lincoln improved to 13-12 and will travel to Sylva Smoky Mountain this afternoon for a 5 o’clock start in a second round game. Shelby finished the season at 14-8.
The Mustangs got on the scoreboard in the bottom half of the first inning. Nate Kinsch singled with one out, and following a strikeout, Savoie and Chase Watson each drew walks.
Carson Philemon then delivered a base hit that scored Kinsch and Savoie to give East Lincoln a 2-0 lead. Moments later, the Golden Lions third baseman couldn’t handle a pickoff throw, and Watson raced home to extend the lead to 3-0.
“We were doing a good job early of working the count,” Mustangs head coach Chris Matile said. “Carson worked the count in his favor and got a big hit.”
They were all the runs the Mustangs right-hander needed, as Savoie gave up only three Shelby hits, while striking out four and walking four.
“He kept control of the game,” said Matile of his starting pitcher. “Nick did a good job of not allowing their 1, 2 and 3 hitters to come up with multiple people on.”
The Golden Lions managed to score single runs in the third and sixth innings, each time to trim the lead to two. Three East Lincoln errors played a part in both of Shelby’s runs.
The Mustangs scored an insurance run in the bottom of the fifth. Chris Cox doubled with one out in the inning to score Kinsch and gave East Lincoln a 4-1 advantage. Kinsch reached when a wild pitch on strike three had gotten by the Shelby catcher.
While the Mustangs did commit three errors, there were some bright spots defensively for East Lincoln as well. Matile was quick to point out Chris Tomberlin, “played solid in centerfield.”
Another plus for the Mustangs was freshman Alec Burleson. Burleson, who has been hampered by an injury, delivered a pinch-hit single late giving East Lincoln hope for his future contribution.
Today’s second round game can be found on WLON-1050 AM.