Legion Baseball: South Rowan 4, Lexington 5
By Mike London
LEXINGTON ó South Rowan pitcher Alex Ingold delivered a breakout performance under pressure, but Lexington-Davidson first baseman Jarrett Albright still got in the last word.
Ingold’s five scoreless innings of relief should have been enough to secure a victory on Wednesday at Holt-Moffitt Field, but South left 15 men on base and was beaten 5-4 by Albright’s homer leading off the bottom of the eighth.
Albright’s drive just cleared the left-field fence that is perched atop a lofty hill at Holt-Moffitt. South’s Zach Wright scaled the imposing crest like a mountain goat and made an impressive leap, but the ball disappeared beyond his reach.
“I’d been missing my pitch all night,” Albright said. “But I finally sat back on one.”
Albright is the North Davidson quarterback who was deathly ill two years ago when ulcers in his esophagus and stomach kept him from eating for 10 days and cost him 20-plus pounds, most of his junior baseball season and the whole Legion season.
But he’s healthy now and is on a homer binge. He hit two in one game against Stanly in the first round, and his clutch blast gave Lexington a 2-1 lead in its best-of-five, second-round series with South.
“I probably let Alex go one batter too far,” South coach David Wright said. “But he’d thrown so well. It was a great night for him, especially after he struggled here in the first game of the series. I told our guys Alex would shut them down and he did.”
Top-seeded Lexington (24-8) rallied to win the opener 7-6 before No. 4 seed South (19-13) romped 16-6 in Game 2.
Game 3 nearly got out of hand early. South right-hander Randy Shepherd didn’t have his best fastball, and Matt Tysinger unloaded a three-run homer in the first inning.
Luke Wilhelm’s sacrifice fly in the second inning followed Shepherd’s third and fourth walks. That made it 4-0, and Wright pulled Shepherd, who verbally committed to Appalachian State yesterday, after just two frames.
“Randy’s spent from a lot of innings this year, and we’re shutting him down now,” Wright said. “When your arm’s fatigued your mechanics get off, that’s when you get hurt, and we’re not going to let that happen to him.”
“Shepherd is out of there after two, and I was sure we were in business,” Lexington coach Matt Griffin said. “But Ingold comes in and he was fantastic.”
Ingold wasn’t expecting to be pitching in the third inning, not with Shepherd starting, but he started mowing down hitters and gave South a chance to catch its breath and get back into it.
“We let them hang around,” Albright said. “Everyone was way out front (against Ingold), and we were rolling over groundballs or hitting popups.”
The challenge for South was to find some way to score. Lexington lefty Zach Joyce walked three batters in the fourth, but the only run South got came when Joseph Basinger drew a free pass with the bases loaded.
“The strike zone was tough, but Joyce didn’t beg for pitches,” Griffin said. “He just got the ball back from his catcher and threw another one. He gutted out six innings for us when having to take him out after three or four would have been disastrous as far us having a chance to win this series.”
Matt Ingold’s infield single in the fifth scored Caleb Shore and cut South’s deficit to 4-2, but Joyce got two big strikeouts to strand two runners.
Setup man Michael Pilcher got Lexington through the seventh, and closer Luke Wilhelm survived South’s two-run eighth that tied the game. Shore singled home one run, and the tying run scored on Matt Ingold’s bases-loaded walk.
But South had the opportunity to do a lot more damage. It had runners at second and third with one out.
Then in Lexington’s half of the eighth, Albright homered to shatter the short-lived 4-4 tie and a nearly flawless performance by Alex Ingold.
“I was successful tonight because I was just throwing instead of thinking too much,” Ingold said. “That pitch he hit for the home run, that was the first time all night that I was just trying to throw it over for a sure strike, and he hit it.”
South sent 46 men to the plate and got leadoff man Ryan Bostian to the dish six times, but offensive futility continued in the ninth. Ivan Corriher’s single and Wright’s sacrifice put the tying run at second with one out, but Wilhelm retired Basinger on a liner to right and Bostian on a routine fly to center to end it.
South was stout in the field with two double plays and no errors, but Lexington was also very sound defensively.
South plays a do-or-die Game 4 tonight at home. Bostian (oblique) is unable to pitch right now, so lefty Zach Wright (2-3, 6.21 ERA) is almost certain to be the starting pitcher.
Lexington will likely go with Kelly Secrest, a left-hander who played left field last night.
He has no record and a high ERA in limited outings.
If South can manage to get the series back to a Game 5 at Lexington, it is certain to be facing Clay Watson, Lexington’s top pitcher. Weston Church might be available for South.