By RYAN HERMAN
PUMPKIN CENTER –– When manager Bruce Bolick put together this summer’s Lincoln County Cardinals, he knew his team was young.
That youth showed on Wednesday.
The Cardinals struck out 17 times and left 14 on base, and in the field they committed five errors, all of which factored into Alexander County Post 170’s 6-3 win on Wednesday at North Lincoln.
Post 455 (3-5, 2-2 Area IV Eastern Division) managed 10 hits –– only one for extra bases –– but went a meager 3 for 18 with runners in scoring position.
The loss snapped a mini two-game win streak for the Cardinals, and in their last two losses they have struck out a total of 35 times, including 18 in a loss to the Gaston Braves last Friday.
“We’re young, and we’ve got to gain experience. And the only way to gain experience is to play games.” Lincoln County manager Bruce Bolick said. “We’ll just keep plugging away.”
Post 455 wasted no time jumping on Post 170 right-hander Riley Smith. Nathaniel Scoggins’ triple to the deepest part of the ballpark in right-center scored Bryan Seymour, who began the game by taking a fastball on the shoulder in an 0-2 count.
Bradley Hallman singled home Scoggins with two outs, and then stole second. But he was left there when Smith got Zac Reeder to pop-up to end the inning.
The game never got away from the Cardinals, thanks in part to Alexander County’s own misfortunes with runners on base. Post 170 (5-1, 4-1) stranded nine with 12 hits, and itself went 4 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
Lincoln County’s Justin Norton had a lot to do with that. The right-hander took a tie game into the eighth, where Post 170 broke the 3-3 tie on an RBI infield hit by Ryan Johnson.
Alexander County tagged Norton for an unearned run in the second, and hit him for two earned runs in the fifth on RBIs by Smith and Tad Ratliff to go up 3-2. Norton handed the ball over to Paul Cochrane in the ninth, where Post 170 got its final two runs on a single by Mason Stikeleather and an error.
Alexander County’s 3-2 lead stood until the seventh. Brady Drennen struck out swinging to start the frame, but reached on a wild pitch. Post 170 catcher Daniel Holchin’s throw sailed wide, and Drennen headed for second on the error.
Scoggins singled to right to score Drennen, and Nick Savoie followed with a hit to left. Hallman reached on a fielder’s choice, which forced out Scoggins, and Alex Pickeral walked to load the bases for the second straight inning. But, just like he did in the sixth, Smith retired the next two via strikeout to escape any further damage.
Using a nice mixture of breaking balls and fastballs, and living on the outer edge of the plate, Smith fanned 15, walked three and hit three in 7 2/3 innings in the win. He gave up three earned runs on nine hits.
“I understand it was (Smith’s) first game, and he did a great job,” Bolick said.
Ratliff took over for Smith with two outs in the eighth. He struck out Scoggins with the tying run at second, then fanned Brett Wright in the ninth to end the game for the save.
Seymour went 1-for-2 and was hit twice, Scoggins went 2-for-5 and struck out three times, Savoie went 3-for-5, and Pickeral went 1-for-2 and walked three times.
The Cardinals, who had played four games in six days, are off until Saturday, when they travel to Newton.
Notes: Post 455 played without two of its starters, outfielder Chase Watson and catcher J.T. Bowden. Bolick said Watson will miss at least a month with a torn meniscus, which he suffered while sliding into second against Huntersville Post 321 on Tuesday. Bowden missed Wednesday’s game because of an injured thumb, also suffered at Huntersville. His timetable for a return is unknown … Bolick’s answer for his team’s hitting woes was simple: “I guess we just need to see more breaking balls,” he said.
Post 170 010 020 012––6 12 1
Post 455 200 000 000––3 10 5
Smith, Ratliff (8) and Holchin; Norton, Cochrane (9) and Reeder. W––Smith. L––Norton.