Gaston sweeps Cherryville, which misses semis for first time since ’04
By RYAN HERMAN
BELMONT –– No one had been able to stop Cherryville Post 100 from reaching the Area IV semifinals in the past nine seasons.
This year, it met its match.
Cody Dellinger homered and right-hander Cameron High gave his team all it could ask for, but neither were enough as the Gaston Braves won 5-1 Wednesday to sweep the best-of-five series and keep Post 100 from reaching the semifinals for the 10th straight year.
The Braves (21-1) will face the Asheville Post 70-Hickory Post 48 series winner in the best-of-five semifinals, which begin this weekend.
As for Cherryville (17-14), it has been regulated to a spectator of the round of four for the first time since it missed out in 2004, and was the victim of a series sweep for the first time since 2001.
“We hadn’t been home in the quarterfinals in a while, so that’s very unusual,” Post 100 manager Bobby Dale Reynolds said. “We’re talking what, 10 years? We’re used to going on. We got beat by a better team.”
That better team excelled in all phases of the game –– pitching, hitting and defense –– in the short series, while Cherryville struggled.
Post 100 had its best chance to jump out front early in Game 3 when it loaded the bases on a pair of two-out hits by Dillon Harris and Jonathan Carpenter in the top of the first.
After Game 2’s 12-3 loss Reynolds said his team was going to have to come up with extra-base hits with runners in scoring position to give his team a shot at getting the series back to Cherryville. Brandon Alexander had that opportunity in the first, but struck out swinging to end the threat.
Post 100 had four of its six hits in the first three innings and had seven base runners, but couldn’t push any across and stranded them all.
“We never could get that hit that we talked about, and never got it throughout the whole game,” Reynolds said. “Story of the game. Get the big hit, stay in the game, get out front, couldn’t do it.”
The only Cherryville hit that made any noise was Dellinger’s two-out homer to right in the fourth that pulled it to within 2-1. But Post 100 had only one more hit the rest of the way off Braves starter Aaron Biggerstaff, and had just one runner reach second base in the last five frames.
“I just feel like we didn’t hit the ball like we could, and they outpitched us and outhit us,” Dellinger said. “We’ve got a good team –– we beat them in the first half of the season –– (and) we could have beat them just as easy as they beat us. We just didn’t swing it well.”
Although he allowed five runs –– three as he tired in the last two innings –– High refused to give way to his bullpen.
The West Lincoln product threw 166 gutsy pitches, and held a team that had scored 24 total runs in the first two games of the series to two in the first six innings of Game 3.
Sawyer McGraw doubled in those two runs in the bottom of the second for a 2-0 lead, but High’s offense couldn’t give him any support.
“Boy, what a performance by Cameron High. He gave us a great pitching performance, didn’t want to come out, wanted to finish the thing, so we left that up to him,” Reynolds said. “We weren’t going to be able to put anyone in there that was competing as hard as he was for us and he did.
“No regrets on who we put on the mound –– we got the outing we needed –– we just didn’t bring enough sticks to the series. They did. They deserve to go on.”
Gaston, which has 21 straight wins since opening the season with a 6-5 loss to Cherryville on May 28, added some insurance in the seventh with a pair of runs on an RBI double by Aaron Mauldin and a wild pitch.
The Braves loaded the bases in the eighth on High, who walked in the final run with a free pass to Mason Smith.
After Biggerstaff limited Post 100 to six hits and a run in eight strong innings, Logan Edgerton pitched a perfect ninth to send Gaston Post 144-266 to a semifinals that, for the first time in a decade, won’t include Cherryville.
“It’s kind of heartbreaking. I know we’ve got a team that can compete. We’ve had a team that could compete the whole time, it’s just heartbreaking,” said Dellinger, who played his final game in a Post 100 uniform and will begin his college career at Catawba Valley Community College next spring.
“It’s most of our last years. It’s just heartbreaking.”
Notes: Hunter Jackson and Harris each went 2-for-4 for Cherryville, which was outhit in the series 41-17. … Post 100 never led at any point in any game during the series. … High struck out six and gave up 11 hits. Of his 166 pitches, 97 were strikes. … Gastonia Post 23 and Shelby Post 82 will meet in the other Area IV semifinal, with that series scheduled to begin Saturday. Asheville leads its quarterfinal series with Hickory, 2-1. Game 4 was postponed Thursday due to rain, and will be made up today as part of a doubleheader if a fifth game is needed. The semifinal winners advance to the state tournament.