Shore’s homer extends South’s season
By David Shaw
LANDIS ó Facing fourth-and-long and a frustrating end to its season, South Rowan turned brooms into booms Friday night.
Instead of being swept into a third-round dustpan in its best-of-seven series with Randolph County, South received a ninth-inning walk-off home run from Caleb Shore and lived to fight another day.
Shore’s two-run blast with two away gave South a 6-5 win and cut its series deficit to 3-1.
“I always wanted to do that,” Shore beamed. “You know ó hit a walk-off homer and toss my helmet ó especially in the third round of the playoffs.”
Game 5 is scheduled for tonight at a location that had not been determined late Friday.
In Game 4, South (22-16) stared defeat square in the eye and refused to blink. Losing pitcher Cameron Cockman had thrown three innings of hitless relief and appeared in complete control after retiring South’s first two batters in the ninth.
“Yeah, but we’re a competitive team, and we’ll do anything to win,” designated hitter Walker Snow said. “You’ve gotta hand it to these guys.”
Make sure to extend a hand toward Snow.
The team’s resident mad-man, his night’s work included three strikeouts and a pop-up when he stepped into the batter’s box just ahead of Shore.
“I hadn’t done well at all,” Snow said. “But (Coach David) Wright always says your next at-bat is your most important at-bat. I just went up there looking for something to hit hard.”
Snow found it on a first-pitch fastball, which he drilled for a double to left-center.
Shore followed by smashing an 0-1 heater from Cockman over the fence in left.
“I don’t know if he was trying to go in or out, but it was right down the middle,” Shore said. “I made solid contact.”
Wright ó who micro-managed every detail of the must-win game ó looked relieved and exhausted afterward.
“Maybe that’s the shot we needed,” he said. “First Walker gets the big double, and then Shore comes through. Caleb has struggled in this series, and maybe (Cockman) thought he could throw it by him. But he gave him something up that he could handle, and he delivered.”
Shore modestly added: “None of it would have mattered if Walker hadn’t gotten on.”
Perhaps the play that closed the top of the ninth was just as significant.
Randolph’s Tyler McSwain snapped a 4-4 tie when he steered an RBI single through South’s drawn-in infield against reliever Alex Ingold. With two out and a runner on second, teammate Matthew Wheless grounded a sharp single into left field. South’s Scott Ashby came up throwing and rifled a beautiful relay to steel-wall catcher Joseph Basinger.
The ball dislodged upon collision and popped into the air near the plate. Ingold, who was kinda-sorta backing up on the play, snatched it and alertly tagged McSwain, preventing further damage.
“I knew I had to be there,” said Ingold (2-2), who spelled South starter Cam Park and earned the win. “I saw the opportunity to help Zinger and was in the right place at the right time.”
Randolph coach Ronnie Pugh offered little resistance after his team fell to 31-9.
“I wasn’t sure what the umpire saw after the collision,” he said. “The pitcher was probably out of place, but he reached up and made the tag. It was a good call and a good baseball play.”
Expect more tonight when South sends Ryan Bostian (3-1, 1.67 ERA) to the mound.
He teamed with Snow to beat Randolph 2-0 in an early-season, non-division game.
“Ryan will give us a chance to win,” Wright said. “What we’ll need is a little more offensive consistency ó a way to get the series back here.”
NOTES: Another twist has been added to this controversy-filled series. Due to a scheduling conflict, Asheboro’s McCrary Park will not be available tonight at 7 p.m. Randolph offered to play at 2 p.m., but South athletic director Mike Fisher and state commissioner Roy Waters rejected that idea. It must start at 7 p.m. Three possible scenarios remained as of late Friday night: play the game somewhere near Asheboro, possibly in Thomasville; play it at South Rowan; or force Randolph to forfeit. … Shore’s home run was his team-leading eighth of the summer. … Park pitched eight innings and yielded 14 of Randolph’s 16 hits. … Third baseman Hunter Ridge went 5-for-5 and drove in two runs for Randolph. … South’s Brett Huffman lined a two-run single that gave the locals a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning.