West Lincoln went three up and three down in the top of the third inning. North did the same in their half of the inning and it was still 0-0 after three.
A deep fly ball accounted for the first out of the fourth inning for the Rebels; then Josh Allen hit Chandler Carpenter with a pitch and Chris Moxley hit the ball over the left center field fence and his home run gave West a 2-0 lead. Dylan Smith then stroked a grounder that was mishandled; he then went to second on a wild pitch. A fly out to right field and a grounder to second got the last two outs and with 3½ innings in the book, West led 2-0.
In the North Lincoln fourth, Sam Brady beat out an infield hit. Freshman Matt Heavner grounded the ball to third after first trying to bunt but fouling the ball. An error put Brady at second and Heavner on first. Seth Whitley then bunted and when Towery's throw to third failed to get Heavner, the bases were loaded with nobody out. Jake Soorus then grounded to short but shortstop Brandon Lail couldn't get the ball out of his glove, and everybody was safe. That made the score 2-1 with the bases still loaded and no outs. Jake Quilla then struck out. Tanner Brumfield, who hit into a double play in his first at-bat, popped up to Dylan Burkey at third for the second out. North still tied the score as a wild pitch to Daniel Carter brought Heavner home. Daniel Carter then hit the ball past Burkey to score two more runs and North led 4-2. A second wild pitch moved the runners to second and third and Landon Reeves hit a single to right field to bring both to the plate and give the Knights a 6-2 lead. Reeves advanced to second on the throw to home. West Lincoln then made a pitching change and put Dylan Smith on the mound and a pop out to right field finally ended the inning.
Brandon Lail led off the fifth inning for West with a single. Dylan Burkey then popped up to short for the first out. Bobby Beam got his second hit of the game with a double down the left field line and West had runners at second and third. Seth Willis hit a sacrifice fly to right field to make the score 6-3 as Lail scored. A strikeout ended the inning, but the Rebels did cut the margin to 6-3 after 4½.
Matt Heavner led off the 5th inning with a double. A ground out to Burkey, who checked Heavner at second, then threw to first, got the first out. Soorus, who had hits in his first two at-bats, then walked. Jake Quilla then got hit by a pitch to load the bases. Yet another wild pitch to batter Tanner Brumfield scored Heavner to make it 7-3. Brumfield then hit the ball to center field. The ball got past the center fielder and two more runs crossed the plate to make it 9-3. Daniel Carter then came to the plate with Brumfield the only base runner at first base; he hit the ball back to the pitcher but it glanced off his glove, but the second baseman threw the ball away trying to get the out at first and that put Brumfield on third and Carter on first. What might have been a double play ball didn't get the runner at first; the force out at second was the second of the inning, but Brumfield scored to make it 10-3. An attempted pickoff of Fox at first sent him to second when Bobby Beam's throw to first was wild. Smith then hit Landon Reeves with a pitch, but finally got the third out to end the inning.
Chris Moxley, whose two-run homer got West the first lead of the game was the first batter for the Rebles in the top of the sixth inning. This time, he struck out. Dylan Smith then popped out to short for the second out. Brett Mason drew a walk; then Samuel Duncan grounded to second and was thrown out at first to end the top half of the sixth.
What should have been the first out of the inning was instead an error as the catcher's throw sailed over the first baseman's head and Matt Heavner went all the way to third. Seth Whitley's single to right field scored Heavner to make it 11-3. Jake Soorus then grounded to third and Whitley was thrown out at second. Soorus stole second; then Jake Quilla walked and on the pitch that put him on base, Soorus ran to third. Tanner Brumfield then grounded out to end the inning, but not before North made it 11-3.
Down to a hope and a prayer, West Lincoln coach John Markley decided to make sure his seniors all got to play. Brandon Lail beat out what might have been a ground out to give West a base runner. Burkey then singled and West had runners at first and second but a double play put North Lincoln one out away from victory. Allen then hit Seth Willis on the foot with a pitch, then stole third, and scored on a wild pitch. Chandler Carpenter hit the ball to second base and an error put him on base and scored Willis to make it 11-5, but the next batter was called out on a third strike and North Lincoln had punched its ticket to the state championship series.
The Knights will play Randleman for the 2A championship. That series will be played at the Burlington Athletic Complex or at Three Counties Stadium in Zebulon or at UNC-Greensboro. Since Randleman is located south of Greensboro, Burlington or Greensboro would seem the better choice, but that's up to the NCHSAA and as of Friday, they hadn't decided where it would be.
Randleman was the co-champ of the regular season in the PAC7 2A Conference with Providence Grove, but they beat Providence Grove in the conference tournament. The Tigers are 23-4 on the year; they last lost on April 25th. North Lincoln is now 24-6. West Lincoln, who most had not picked preseason tied for the South Fork Conference regular season title with North; the Rebels finished 22-9.
West Lincoln didn't make it to the state championship, but it has to be considered a great season. Coach John Markley was named the conference Coach of the Year and his team did much, much better than many had expected.
The state championship starts on Friday with game two on Saturday, followed by a third game on Saturday if needed.
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