North Lincoln starting pitcher Joey Cobb used up every last one of his pitches in Tuesday night’s regional final matchup against West Lincoln.
The lefthander recorded 20 of the 21 needed outs, then made way for reliever Jake Soorus to come in and shut the door and the Knights defeated the Rebels 3-1 in the opening game of the 2A Western Regional Finals best-of-3 series in Pumpkin Center.
The victory for North Lincoln puts the Knights just one win away from playing for the 2A state championship late next week against the winner of the Randleman-Washington East Regional series. Randleman defeated Washington 4-2 on Tuesday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series.
“It’s big to get the first one,” said North Lincoln head coach Jon Carpenter following his team’s win. “It’s better to be up 1-0. Our young kids have just stepped up. They’re big, physical and strong.”
The Knights struck early with a couple unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning. After Cobb retired the Rebels in order in the top of the frame, Matt Heavner reached on an infield error with one out and Soorus drew a two-out walk.
Jake Quilla then delivered a run-scoring single for the game’s first run, and when Quilla got in a rundown between first and second on a pickoff play for the third out, Soorus had just enough time to come in to score North Lincoln’s second run before the third out was recorded.
After Cobb retired the first seven West Lincoln hitters that he faced, the Rebels scratched for a run in the top of the third. Dylan Smith reached on a one-out single, then advanced to second and third base on a couple wild pitches.
Samuel Duncan then beat out what would have been a double-play grounder, allowing Smith to score on the RBI fielder’s choice.
From that point on, Cobb was in control. The senior retired ten of the next eleven West Lincoln batters, allowing just one two-out single to Duncan in the sixth inning.
The Knights added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Tanner Brumfield led off with a walk, and pinch runner Ethan Bryant advanced to second on Daniel Carter’s sacrifice bunt. Kyle Brittain then smacked a single into right field, scoring Bryant just ahead of the relay throw to the plate.
Cobb entered the top of the seventh having just four pitches remaining before reaching his limit. Bobby Beam doubled to lead off the inning, but was thrown out at third base when he tried to stretch it to a triple. After a strikeout for the second out, Cobb was lifted for Soorus.
Soorus hit Chandler Carpenter with the first pitch that he threw, then gave up a single to Chris Moxley to put the tying runs aboard with two outs. Soorus then got a roller back to the mound that he fielded cleanly and tossed to first base for the final out of the game.
“They (North Lincoln) did a good job of putting the ball in play,” said West Lincoln head coach John Markley. “But we’ve been in survive and advance mode the whole postseason.”
Both starting pitchers pitched well enough to win. Moxley gave up three runs, but two were unearned. He allowed five North Lincoln hits, striking out six and walking four. Dylan Smith retired the only two batters that he faced in relief.
As for Cobb, he gave up the one earned run on just 3 hits. The lefty struck out 10, while walking only one.
West Lincoln 001 000 0 - 1 4 2
North Lincoln 200 001 x - 3 5 0