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KANNAPOLIS — South Rowan gave star catcher Eric Tyler a day off behind the plate Saturday afternoon in the F&M Baseball Classic. So instead the senior ECU signee decided to find other ways to help his team win.
Tyler went 3-for-4, drove in four runs then pitched the final inning to secure an 11-8 win over rival A.L. Brown in the F&M Classic. The victory completed a 3-0 run through the event for South (11-3).
“That’s our main goal coming into every game,” Tyler said of his versatile effort, “ to contribute somehow in getting a win.”
His contribution included a single, double, triple, a stolen base and two runs scored. He was not a one man show as Dylan Goodman added a pair of hits and two RBI’s, while four others each had an RBI.
South had to overcome an early 4-0 deficit to the Wonders (2-13) then withstand a couple of rallies. Blake Sechler came on in relief of starter Jonnie LeFebvre to hold Brown at bay and earn the win. Tyler pitched the seventh and surrendered a run on two hits but was able to close it out.
“We didn’t come out here and dominate in any of our three games but we found ways to win in each of them,” Tyler said.
South won their first two games in walk-off fashion over Northwest Cabarrus and Concord. This time they had a little cushion but it took most of the game to build it up.
As they had done previously, Brown broke out to a big lead with timely hitting and aggressive base running. Senior Zeb Ritchie was the Wonder star with a 4-for-5 game and three RBI’s. He got the team started with an RBI single in the first, followed by another one in the second that keyed a three-run outburst and a 4-0 lead. C.J. Powell had an RBI triple in the frame while Ryan Austin and Kameron Sherrill also had singles.
“We played hard and put pressure on people offensively,” Wonder coach Empsy Thompson said, ”but unfortunately, our pitching and defense had some lapses.”
The initial lapse came in the bottom of the third as South sent 11 men to the plate and scored six times to take the lead for good. It got RBI hits from Tyler and Chase Labbe but also benefitted from two walks and two plunked batters by Austin. The Wonders cut the lead to 6-5 thanks to a walk, an outfield error and a balk against LeFebvre. But the Raiders responded with two runs in the fourth on Goodman’s double and Tyler’s triple to chase starter Austin.
A.L. Brown battled back again in the fifth to cut the score to 8-7 as Trace Hagler blasted a shot to the left-field wall. Then, Ritchie collected another base hit. South iced it in the bottom of the fifth with three insurance runs as Goodman had an RBI single and Tyler completed his banner day by driving in two more with a single to right for the 11-7 lead.
“Eric is a very versatile player and we need him to swing the bat like that and drive in some runs,” South coach Thad Chrismon said of his star player.
“I am pleased we were able to work through some adversity and win games,” Chrismon said. “Anytime you play it is an opportunity to get better. This a great atmosphere and there were some good, competitive games.”

NOTE: With the tournament behind them, the Raiders return to North Piedmont Conference wars, beginning with a key battle against West Rowan on Tuesday.

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