Huntersville rallies past Post 455
By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– All the Lincoln County Cardinals need in order to improve their chances of having home-field advantage in next week’s opening round of the Area IV playoffs are wins.
Huntersville Post 321 didn’t give them any help.
The Cardinals’ bats went cold in the last four innings, thanks to the side-armed motion of Huntersville reliever Wayne Shaffer as it left East Lincoln High Wednesday with a 5-4 win and dropped Post 455 into a tie for fourth with Mint Hill in the Area IV Eastern Division race with just a handful of games to go.
Things seemed to be looking up for Post 455 heading into the final week of the regular season, which ends Sunday, after consecutive wins to start the week. But it has now dropped back-to-back division games entering its final three games.
Lincoln County (6-9, 5-6) and Mint Hill (6-9, 5-6) meet at Charlotte Independence at 5 p.m. today for a crucial division doubleheader.
Mint Hill has also struggled this week, losing four of its last five games.
The best-of-five opening-round series begins on Tuesday.
“I’ve heard one or two of (my players) mention that it was important, but now it’s even more important,” Cardinals manager Bruce Bolick said. “We’ll just try to stay steady and keep going. The next day is another day.”
A two-run home run off the bat of Nathaniel Scoggins in the fifth –– which came an inning after his running catch at the fence in centerfield saved extra bases –– gave Post 455 a 4-2 lead. Shaffer took over for Andrew Naspinski in the sixth, and the side-armed right-hander went right to work.
The Huntersville Hopewell product got not one, but two, inning ending 4-6-3 double plays in the sixth and eighth innings, and he worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the seventh.
Shaffer’s only 1-2-3 inning came in the ninth as he struck out Nick Savoie and Justin Norton looking to end it.
“He shut us down. He’s a real crafty little guy and a pretty good ballplayer,” Bolick said. “That arm angle brought some movement.”
The home run by Scoggins, who went 3-for-5 and reached base four times, broke a 2-all tie with nobody out in the fifth. But Post 455 managed only three more hits, all singles, the rest of the way.
Cardinals starter Bradley Hallman put his team in a position to win, holding Post 321 to a pair of runs in seven solid innings. He struck out seven and allowed six hits, all in the first four innings, and found his groove towards the end of the fourth.
A groundout retired the final batter of Post 321’s half of the fourth, and Hallman retired the next seven before giving up a walk to Zac Dudan with one out in the seventh. A sacrifice by Shaffer put Dudan in scoring position, but Hallman got Ethan Whitman to fly out to right to end the threat.
Brady Drennen took over for Hallman to start the eighth, and immediately worked his way into trouble. A lead-off walk to Kealin Fuller set up an RBI double by Justin Baker. Zack Ruttkamp followed with a single that scored Baker, and just like that it was a 4-4 game.
Drennen again walked the first batter he faced in the ninth, but it was Shaffer’s double that proved to be the eventual winning run.
Another walk by Drennen loaded the bases, and Dudan, who walked, was forced out at home on Fuller’s fielder’s choice. Drennen then walked Baker, which forced in Shaffer for the go-ahead run.
After Shaffer put his team on top, he closed the door on a Cardinals comeback.
“He’s got a really good curveball, and he didn’t command it very well,” Bolick said of Drennen, “but he’s just a freshman.
“They know we just have to go on to the next game.”
Back-to-back sac flies by Savoie and Norton gave Lincoln County a 2-1 lead in the third. Drennen, who walked twice and scored twice, walked ahead of Scoggins’ homer for the 4-2 lead, but also ground into both double plays in the sixth and eighth innings.
Hallman had two hits and reached base three times, and everyone in the Cardinals’ lineup reached base at least once. But they stranded 10 and went 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
Post 321 010 100 021––5 9 2
Post 455 002 020 000––4 8 4
Naspinski, Shaffer (6) and Ruttkamp; Hallman, Drennen (8) and Bowden. W––Shaffer. L––Drennen.