2A Baseball Playoffs: Piedmont 6, Salisbury 5

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 13, 2011

By Jordan Honeycutt
SALISBURY ó An excellent baseball game ended in exactly the same fashion, just not for the hometown Hornets.
The Panthers of Piedmont ended Salisburyís season with a dramatic 6-5 victory on Friday night in the opening round of the 2A playoffs.
ěOur kids played hard and pretty well, with the exception of passed balls and errors,î Salisbury coach Scott Maddox said. ěThis isnít how we wanted it all to end. We didnít help ourselves out at all, but thatís a part of baseball.î
Piedmontís first two runs were scored without a hit as Salisbury contributed a passed ball and made an error on a pick-off attempt.
In what began as a back-and-forth battle that featured solid pitching and shaky fielding, Salisbury was ultimately doomed by the big hit.
That hit came in the top of the fifth inning when Hornet ace Philip Tonseth came into the game in relief of starter Brian Bauk and faced Piedmont catcher Patrick King.
Tonseth inherited a bases-loaded jam and a 3-3 tie. He retired one batter before facing King, and started King off with a heavy dose of his trademark curveball.
After a few curves, Tonseth fired a straight fastball that King deposited into the right-center field gap, clearing the bases and giving the Panthers a 6-3 lead that they would not relinquish.
ěHe threw me some curveballs and then a fastball, and I think that he wanted me to think he was coming back with a curve but I was sitting dead-red on a fastball,î King said. ěI got it and was able to drive it and plate a few runs.î
Maddox has seen Tonseth work out of numerous jams this season, but not this time.
ěPhilip struggled a bit throwing his curve over for strikes and got behind some guys, and thatís unfortunate for him because he has that great curveball,î Maddox said. ěBut we had a chance at the end to win it and just didnít separate ourselves enough from them down the stretch.î
Piedmont was also helped out by a stellar performance on the mound by ace Brad Elwood. Elwood minimized damage. He allowed five runs, but he but was able to avoid the big hit.
ěI just went out there tonight and trusted my stuff and my defense and just tried to get outs and not force anything,î Elwood said.
Piedmont (17-10) celebrated, hooped and hollered in right field, while opposite emotions were being felt by Hornets across the diamond
Panthers coach Milt Flow knew that his team had every reason to celebrate as they were the lower seed and on the road against the Hornets (14-11) at Robertson Stadium. The Hornets were a No. 2 seed by virtue of winning the CCC tournament.
ěThatís a great ballclub over there, and we were very fortunate to win tonight,î Flow said. ěKingís double turned the tide of the game in our favor. We were worried coming into this place tonight but Brad pitched great and we lucked one out.î
Elwood was also aware of the possible implications this win could have for him and his team. Piedmont heads to West Lincoln for a second-round matchup on Tuesday.
ěWe just hope that beating a good team like Salisbury can spark us, and we feel that if we can beat them, then we can beat most teams,î Flow said. ěHopefully, we can ride this momentum as far as we can.î
The loss hurts worse than normal for the Hornets, not just because it comes in the first round of the state playoffs and is an upset, but because it is the last time in a Hornet uniform for some highly decorated seniors.
One of those was Tonseth, who was visibly dejected after the game.
ěItís just real disappointing, and Iím going to miss the guys because we are like a family,î he said. ě But we can take pride in the fact that we won the schoolís first conference title since 2006 and we will always have that.î
Another senior is multi-sport star John Knox. Knox, who is headed to Charleston University to play quarterback, also had a solid career on the diamond for the Hornets.