Legion Tournament: Caldwell rallies to top Garner in extras
SALISBURY — With both teams facing elimination after losing on Friday, Caldwell County and the Garner Nationals aimed to keep their hopes alive in the American Legion baseball state tournament.
With Garner scoring its first run off of the second pitch of the game, it looked as if the Nationals were going to be the team to advance. But Caldwell County stayed strong and came out on top. After falling to a 2-0 deficit, Caldwell County fought back for a walk-off win 4-3 in the bottom of the 11th inning.
“Like I said, this group never quits,” Caldwell County coach Myron Day said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Garrison Burress, the sophomore from South Caldwell High School, came through in the clutch. With one out in the bottom of the 11th, one man on base, and a full count, Burress hit a walk-off single to bring in Bailey Dollar.
“I was pretty nervous, but I knew it was going to come out good,” Burress said. “I usually put contact on the ball, and I believe in myself.”
Caldwell County’s Jared Mathewson pitched sensationally. Mathewson gave up a run on his second pitch at the mound, but settled in and controlled the game. He struck out eight and pitched three scoreless innings starting in the second.
Garner’s Matthew Duckworth pitched a dominating game as well. In six innings, he gave up only three hits and had zero runs. His day ended after the sixth inning when a line drive into his glove for the final out of the inning also broke his right wrist.
The rest of Garner’s pitchers struggled with Caldwell County’s batters. Robbie Frangello relieved the injured Duckworth, but he gave up a home run to Caldwell County’s Mason Biddix over the left-center field wall on his first pitch. That home run brought the score to 2-1.
Caldwell County’s Andrew Tilghman came in to pitch for Mathewson and hit the first two batters and walked in a run to put Garner up 3-1. That was the last run Tilghman gave up in his four innings pitched.
Caldwell County mounted their comeback in the eighth inning. Tre’ Harper hit a line-drive single into left-center field and Taylor Purus followed that up with a double that was smashed off the the center-field wall. Trent Wakefield, a freshman at the University of South Carolina, stepped up to bat with the game-tying run on base.
Wakefield hit a single to bring in Harper and Purus home to tie the game at 3, setting the stage for the extra innings duel and the heroics by Burress.