By RYAN HERMAN
HUNTERSVILLE –– Things are starting to come together at the right time for the Lincoln County Cardinals, and it was evident on Tuesday.
Bradley Hallman’s arm, Alex Pickeral’s glove and Nick Savoie’s bat came through when needed most to help Lincoln County Post 455 slide past Huntersville Post 321, 8-5, in 11 innings.
With the winning run 90 feet away for Post 321 in the bottom of the 10th and two outs, Pickeral picked shortstop Brady Drennen’s throw to first out of the dirt to get the out on Zac Ruttkamp’s ground ball and keep the game going. In the top of the 11th, Savoie, who hit a grand slam in Saturday’s win over Union County, sent a three-run shot over the fence in left for the go-ahead runs. And from the eighth inning on, Hallman, a recent Huntersville SouthLake Christian Academy graduate who’s headed to Gardner-Webb University next year, kept Huntersville off the board in the final four frames in relief for the win.
“I’ll take it,” longtime Cardinals manager Bruce Bolick said with a smile.
But Bolick wasn’t smiling early.
Four wild pitches, a pair of walks and three hits allowed by Nathaniel Scoggins spotted Post 321 (0-3, 0-3 Area IV Eastern Division) a 3-0 lead after the first inning. Scoggins retired the first batter he faced in the second on a groundout, but gave up a hit to Gage Smith then walked Wayne Shaffer, which signaled the end of his night. Bolick pulled Drennen over from second –– his starting position –– to the mound and the North Lincoln freshman held Huntersville scoreless until it got to him in the sixth.
In the fourth the Cardinals (3-4, 2-1) made it 3-2, with Drennen scoring on a bases-loaded walk to Dalton Hefner and Scoggins, who moved to the outfield, scoring on a wild pitch after reaching on a single to left.
Drennen gave up three straight hits to begin the home-half of the sixth, the last a triple by Shaffer that plated two for a 5-2 lead. Bolick pulled Drennen for Brett Wright in favor of the lefty-on-lefty matchup, and Wright won by getting David Stowers to pop-up to third. With Wright’s job complete after one batter, Bolick put Paul Cochrane on the bump, and he held serve until Hallman took over for him in the eighth.
The right-hander worked out of a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the eighth by striking out the side, then retired nine of the next 10 he faced to pick up the win.
“I just wanted to throw strikes, get outs, and give our team a chance to get some runs,” said Hallman, who struck out six, hit one, walked none and allowed three hits in addition to picking up a pair of hits offensively. “We fight until the end.”
Drennen, who went 2-for-3, scored three runs, drove in a run, walked twice and was hit by a pitch, walked with one out in the seventh and later scored on Savoie’s sac fly to make it 5-3.
Post 455 tied it in the eighth on RBIs by Zac Reeder and Drennen, which scored Hallman, who singled, and Reeder, who reached on a fielder’s choice. The Cardinals had a chance for more, but left the bases loaded in the frame.
Seth Spilman took over on the mound for Post 321 with two outs in the eighth, and retired five in a row until Reeder broke up the streak with a single in the 10th.
Spilman gave up back-to-back singles to Drennen and Scoggins to start the 11th, which set up Savoie’s heroics.
The soon-to-be East Lincoln graduate who will play at Carson-Newman University next spring worked ahead to a 2-0 count and was sitting on the fastball.
He got it.
Hallman then retired the side in order on 10 pitches for the win.
“I just came up for team big, I guess. Just trying to help the team anyway I can, whether it’s in the field or at the plate,” said Savoie, who went 2-for-5 and drove in four. “I’m not trying to hit home runs, but it’s a good thing I do it.”
Lost among Hallman’s right arm and Savoie’s swing was Lincoln County’s defense. Although things got shaky in the first, the Cardinals played without committing any errors, and their infield helped out its pitchers by getting six inning-ending outs and leaving a total of 13 Huntersville runners on base.
The middle-infield combo of Hallman, who started the game at shortstop, and Drennen had some nifty plays, and Drennen’s finesse play on Ruttkemp’s ground ball was the beginning of Pickeral’s Gold Glove-like pick at first to give Post 455 its third win in its last four games after an 0-3 start.
As Lincoln County prepares to host division rival Alexander County Post 170 (4-1, 3-1) at 7 tonight at North Lincoln High, the Cardinals feel things are headed in the right direction.
“We’re young this year, but we can definitely compete with the best,” Hallman said. “We’ve just got to play well and do our best.”
Added Savoie: “We’ve got fight in us, and I feel it’ll carry over from tonight into tomorrow night.”
Notes: The teams combined to use nine pitchers –– five by Lincoln County –– in a game that lasted 3 hours, 7 minutes. … Chase Watson went 2-for-3 with a walk and Nathaniel Scoggins went 3-for-5 with a walk and a run as 10 of the 13 who had an at-bat for the Cardinals reached base. … Starting Post 455 catcher J.T. Bowden left after the third inning with an injured left thumb. … Post 455 stranded 12.