Peeler Classic: McMichael 7, Salisbury 6
By David Shaw
SALISBURY — We don’t know who will win this year’s Cliff Peeler Baseball Classic, but we do know who won’t.
It won’t be host Salisbury after the Hornets coughed up a five-run lead and dropped a 7-6 first-round decision to McMichael on Saturday.
“I feel like it’s enough to make you sick to your stomach,” SHS coach Scott Maddox said after his team hit an oil slick with the finish line in sight. “We just gave away another game. We don’t make routine plays, we don’t block balls. We give up six runs in the last two innings and then forget what we’re supposed to be doing as hitters.”
The loss dropped Salisbury (9-7) into last night’s consolation game against West Stokes. McMichael (12-7), which scored three runs in the top of the sixth and three more in the seventh, faced Lake Norman in Saturday’s late 10 p.m. semifinal.
“Once we got the early lead, we stopped going hard,” starting pitcher Philip Tonseth said afterward. “We lost our edge. It’s like we were satisfied. We didn’t think we’d have to keep working hard.”
Don’t blame Tonseth, the senior lefthander who yielded four earned runs in six-plus innings and left with Salisbury nursing a 6-5 lead. McMichael scored a pair of unearned runs against losing pitcher Brian Bauk — the last on Justin Cook’s two-out single to left field in the seventh.
“Justin’s been struggling some lately,” said winning coach Mike Dalton. “But I’ve got to leave my seniors in there in that situation.”
With teammate Riley Shelton inching off second base, Cook punched a 3-2 pitch from Bauk into shallow left.
“(Bauk) threw it a lot harder than the first guy,” said Cook, who failed to get the ball out of the infield in three at-bats against Tonseth. “It was a fastball, middle-outside. I just wanted to make contact and get it into the outfield.”
Salisbury left-fielder Scott Van der Poel scooped the ball and fired toward the plate, but his peg was off-line and late.
“I thought if we had cut it off and relayed it home, we could have had him,” said Hornets’ catcher Clint Veal. “A relay definitely would have got him.”
Salisbury sent nine batters to the plate in the first inning and grabbed a 5-1 lead against winning pitcher Dylan Gore. Tonseth (3-for-4, 2 RBIs) delivered a run-scoring single that tied the score before Van der Poel lined a two-out double to right. Before the inning was over Kyle Wolfe produced an RBI-single and another run scored on a botched pickoff throw at first base.
An inning later it was 6-1, courtesy of Tonseth’s one-out single to center.
“I like how we started this game,” Maddox said. “We hit the ball and did a lot of things we were supposed to do.”
McMichael trimmed its deficit to 6-4 in the top of the sixth. Two runs crossed on Devin Gaffney’s base hit and another on Lucas “Bump” Martin’s sacrifice fly.
Tonseth ran out of gas in the seventh when slugger Ryan Puckett stroked a leadoff home run down the right-field line. Bauk was summoned and quickly ran into trouble when he was tardy covering first base on a grounder to Chance Bowden, a two-base error. A pair of wild pitches plated the tying run before Cook delivered his clutch, two-out hit. Veal coaxed a two-out walk in the last of the seventh, bringing the potential winning run to the plate, but was stranded when Nolan Meyerhoeffer struck out.
“You mess around, you give a team an opportunity,” Maddox said. “Next thing you know, you’ve lost the game.”
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