Long’s walk-off single propels Cherryville past Whiteville 5-4
By: Evan Moesta
Despite a stellar performance on the mound from Whiteville High School left-hander MacKenzie Gore, Cherryville High School was able to win a rain-flled first game of the 1A Baseball State Championship Series. The Ironmen managed to weather a late game storm from the clouds, and the Wolfpack to win in walk-off fashion on Friday night at Five County Stadium.
Down 4-2 heading to their final at-bat in the top of the seventh inning, Whiteville rallied to tie the game at 4-4. Conner Grainger was able to reach second base on a one out throwing error from Austin Treadway. A batter later, Treadway rebounded with a diving stop and throw to first for the second out of the inning. With their backs to wall, Brooks Baldwin drew a walk for the Wolfpack, and Grainger came home to score on a passed ball to Hunter Harwood. Harwood proceeded rip a double to left to keep Whiteville’s two-out hopes alive, and put a pair of runners into scoring position. Against, a new Cherryville pitcher in Noah Eaker, Grayson Ward was able to draw a base on balls to fill the bags for Dylan Lawson. One strike away from losing the game, Brooks Baldwin was able to come home on an Eaker wild pitch to knot things up at four.
The Ironmen bounced back from the blown lead by taking advantage of a pair of miscues from the Wolfpack. In his second inning of relief work, Dylan Lawson hit Austin Treadway in the shoulder with a one out pitch. Treadway made his way to second base on a wild pitch, and Cherryville was in business after Jonathan McSwain slapped a ball to third base that was bobbled to put two on with only one out. Lawson caught Ryan Owens looking at the plate for the second out of the seventh, but he was unable to escape the jam with Randall Long up to bat. Long, who went 2-3 with a hit by pitch on Friday came through with a hard hit ground ball to left field, scoring Treadway from second in the process for the 5-4 walk-off victory.
Whiteville was able to establish the early lead with a pair of one run innings in the first three stanzas. Designated Hitter, Hunter Harwood rocked a two run double to the gap in left center in the top of the Wolfpack second. Grayson Ward followed with a double of his own three pitches later to score Harwood, and give Whiteville a 1-0 lead. That helped give starting pitcher MacKenzie Gore confidence on the bump as he went on to register strikeouts on eight of the first nine Cherryville outs. He earned a no decision in his five innings pitched, but he was able to strike out eleven batters in that span, while allowing three runs (two earned) on two hits, two walks, and a hit batsman.
With one out in the top of the third inning, MacKenzie Gore helped his own cause for Whitevile with a one out infield single. He moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt, and he ventured over to third on a passed ball to Conner Grainger. Following the passed ball, Grainger deposited a Tyler Sanders offering to left field for an RBI double, and he advanced to third on a throwing error by the Cherryville centerfielder. Sanders went 5.2 IP for the Ironmen, allowing only those two runs, on six hits, with five strikeouts, and only one walk issued.
Cherryville’s biggest offensive damage came in the bottom of the fourth inning. After a leadoff hit batsman, Randall Long broke up Gore’s no-hitter with a one out RBI double to left field. Noah Eaker followed by reaching on an error from Whiteville’s shortstop Taylor Smith that put runners on the corners with only one out. After a strikeout of Will Walker for the second out of the inning, Carlton Jackson laced a two-run double down the left field line to put Cherryville ahead 3-2.
The momentum built from the three run Ironmen fourth, propelled the Western Regional Champions, as a pair of stellar plays in the field denied Whiteville rallies in the fifth and sixth innings. Rain and lightning suspended play for 47 minutes, but it did not cool down the Cherryville bats. Ryan Owens greeted new Whiteville pitcher Dylan Lawson with a leadoff double in the resumed bottom of the sixth inning. Owens scored on a two run RBI single to left from Carlton Jackson to make it a 4-2 game heading to the final inning. Jackson led all Cherryville hitters with a 2-3 night at the plate, and 3 runs batted in.
After getting the final out of the top of the seventh, Noah Eaker was credited with the win for Cherryville, Dylan Lawson was charged with the loss for Whiteville after going an inning and two-thirds on the mound while allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits, along with a walk and three strikeouts. Will Walker also pitched in the ballgame for Cherryville, he threw an inning of relief with an unearned run allowed on a hit, and one walk.
With the victory, Cherryville moves to 29-4 on the season and they take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. Whiteville falls to 26-4 and they will have to win both games on Saturday at Five County Stadium in order to repeat as 1A State Champions. The second game of the series will be played at 2PM on Saturday, and a third game will be played at 8PM if necessary.