East Lincoln evened the NCHSAA 3A Western Region championship series with South Rowan Friday, coming from behind to win 6-4.
Thursday's game got postponed to Friday because of the weather. The Mustangs had been beaten badly on Wednesday at China Grove when the Raiders scored 11 runs on two East Lincoln pitchers and got a stellar performance from junior left-hander Haiden Leffew to win 11-1. Leffew held the Mustangs to just two hits, and the ten-run rule was invoked when the home team scored their 10th and 11th runs in the sixth inning.
Playing at home Friday, the Mustangs fell behind early. The visitors got a pair of runs in the first inning. Nathan Chrismon singled with one out, stole second and third and scored on Ty Hubbard’s hit. Haiden Leffew, playing in the outfield this time, doubled to put runners at second and third. South pitcher Carson Crainshaw got another run home with a groundout, and the Raiders led 2-0.
Graham Smiley, who had accounted for the Mustangs' only run Wednesday with a first inning solo home run, got his second of the series and eighth of the season in the bottom of the second inning. But the Raiders made it 3-1 in the fourth on singles by Leffew, JD James and Cole Thomas.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, Garrett Michel stroked a 1-and-0 pitch over the right-field fence and the two-run homer, his 17th of the season, cut the lead to 4-3.
Carson Dahle got the Raiders out in the top of the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, Evan Matile and Smiley singled, then with one out, Nate Bouchard, who had hit into a double play to end the fourth, made up for it by hitting a grounder between first and second into right field scoring Matile from second base. one through the right side, and East Lincoln waved Matile home from second. The right-fielder threw to the plate but Matile beat the throw and that left runners on second and third with one out. Landon Burns hit a sacrifice fly scoring Smiley and East took its first lead 5-4. Michael Phuntek’s single gave East another run and made it 6-4.
Dahle, who fell behind early in the game, then settled down, went the distance, winning his sixth game of the season. He struck out four and walked just two. In the seventh inning, he handled the Raiders quickly, and it was over.
South Rowan actually outhit the Mustangs--10 to 8--but two of those eight were the home runs. For South Rowan senior right-hander Carson Crainshaw, it was his first loss of the season.
Saturday's third and deciding game will be played at 7 PM in China Grove. Isaac Armstrong, who had a rocky start Wednesday and got pounded for five runs in two innings, is the likely starter for East. He threw a total of 50 pitches Wednesday in his worst mound performance of the season. He walked three of the 13 batters he faced. Before that loss, the junior had won five games.
Senior right-hander Chandler Oddie will pitch for South Rowan Saturday.
The winner of Saturday's game will be the NCHSAA 3A Western Region champion and will take on South Brunswick next week in a best of three series for the state championship.
Cherryville will play at home for the 1A Western Region championship Saturday. The 7 PM game will decide the series with Union Academy. The winner will play the winner of a series for the Eastern Region championship between Perquimmans (Hertford) and Bear Grass Charter (Williamston). Their second game was postponed Friday because of weather and will be played Saturday at 1 PM at Bear Grass. Perquimmans won the first game of that series on Tuesday. If needed, a third game will be played Saturday night at 7 at Perquimmans.
Cherryville won the first game in the series with Union Academy 9-1 on Tuesday, but lost at Monroe Thursday 10-5.