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A.L. Brown’s walk-off hit sinks Salisbury, 6-5

By Dennis Davidson
dennis.davidson@salisburypost.com

KANNAPOLIS — Austin Lowery’s one-out, two-run single lifted A.L. Brown to a walk-off, 6-5 victory over Salisbury here Monday afternoon, in the fifth-place game of the Intimidators’ F&M Bank Classic.

With the bases loaded and Salisbury clinging to a 5-4 lead, Lowery stroked a grounder perfectly up the middle of the diamond, eluding Hornets’ pitcher Joe Steinman and both middle infielders, and on into center field. The Wonders’ Dylan Shubert and Cord Butler scored the tying and winning runs, respectively.

Brown’s seventh-inning rally ruined what, for a few minutes, looked like a nice come-from-behind victory for Salisbury (11-5).

Coach Mike Herndon’s Hornets were dormant for the first five innings as Brown starting pitcher Chris Allen turned in a solid performance. Allen went five innings, allowing just four hits and no runs while striking out seven and walking just two batters. He left with a 3-0 lead.

However, in the sixth inning, Wonders’ reliever Colby Teal found trouble immediately when he hit Salisbury leadoff batter Bo Rusher with a pitch and then walked cleanup hitter Chandler Lippard. After Jack Fisher was retired on a flyout, Steinman singled in Salisbury’s first run and then on the very next pitch, Blaine Shellhorne drilled a line drive into the right-center field gap for a triple, tying the game, 3-3.

Teal was lifted at that point for Luke Brown, who retired the Hornets’ Blake Clark and Will Taylor, ending the rally.

Fisher, who had struggled with his control on the mound over the first five innings, found new life in Salisbury’s tying rally and breezed through the bottom of the inning, 1-2-3 —including his seventh sixth strikeout on the day.

Fisher was then key in the Hornets’ rally in the top of the seventh inning. Leadoff hitter Vance Honeycutt reached on an error to start things off and was followed by back-to-back singles from Griffin Myers and Rusher. After pitcher Brown and the Wonders induced Lippard to hit into a force-out at home plate, Fisher laced a double into the right field corner, scoring Myers and Rusher for a 5-3 advantage.

Salisbury seemed ready to deliver the knockout punch, but Steinman’s well-struck liner was grabbed by right fielder Keyon Rice and Fisher was doubled off second base to end the threat.

Fisher returned to the mound to try and finish a complete-game victory, but it didn’t work out that way. Rice led off with a double and after singles from Shubert and Butler, the Wonders were within a run with no outs. That chased Fisher after six innings-plus of work, allowing 10 hits and three walks.

Herndon brought on Steinman with hopes of nailing down the save, but a sacrifice bunt attempt and error on Lippard loaded the bases. The next batter, Justin Rodgers, chopped a grounder to Lippard, who came home for an out, preserving, for the moment, the 5-4 Salisbury lead. But then Lowery, hitless on the day to that point, came through with his game-winning single.

It was a tough loss for the Hornets, who fell in the tournament’s first round on Friday to Robinson (9-4), before rebounding on Saturday with a 10-run rule win (11-1) over a good Mount Pleasant team.

“A.L. Brown is better than a 3-10 team and Coach (Empsy) Thompson had his team better prepared than we did,” said Herndon. “That being said, I was disappointed in our guys’ effort. I think some of them started spring break a day early. We just didn’t show up until late in the game. “But, you just have to flush this one, regroup and get ready for next week,” he added.

The Wonders (3-10) lost to South Rowan on Friday (5-1) before beating NW Cabarrus on Saturday (5-3), ending a five-game losing streak.

The loss also overshadows a gutsy effort from Fisher, on the mound and at the plate (2-for-4) and a great day for Myers, who was 3-for-3 and on base all four trips to the plate (hit-by-pitch in the fifth inning).

Butler led the Wonders with three hits and an RBI, and was in the middle of all of Brown’s rallies. Dylan Shubert was 2-for-3 while Rodgers was 2-for-4 and knocked in a run.

NOTES: The usually green-clad Wonders wore orange jerseys during the tournament. … Also ironic: Wonders’ winning pitcher Luke Brown has the same name as Salisbury’s principal. … Salisbury second baseman Honeycutt was shaken up during a collision at the bag during a fourth-inning steal by Matt Shubert, but remained in the game. … Salisbury returns to action next Monday at West Rowan (7 p.m.), while Brown hosts Concord on April 10 (6:30 p.m.).

Salisbury             000  003  2 — 5    9   2

A.L. Brown         201   000  3 — 6   11   1

WP — Luke Brown.   LP — Jack Fisher.

Leading hitters — Salisbury: Griffin Myers 3-for-3, 2B; Fisher 2-for-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Joe Steinman 2-for-4, RBI; Blaine Shellhorne 1-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Cord Butler 3-for-4, RBI; Dylan Shubert 2-for-3; Justin Rodgers 2-for-4, RBI, Austin Lowery 1-for-3 2 RBI.

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