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Junior Legion: South advances to state championship game

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

THOMASVILLE — Drew Huffman threw out a runner at the plate to end the seventh, and Joseph James’ two-out, two-run single in the eighth lifted South Rowan to a 7-5 win on Monday evening in a semifinal game in the Junior American Legion state tournament.

“Eventful game, just like almost all the rest of them have been,” South coach Grayson Miller said. “These guys are making me old.”

South (25-5) will play for the championship today at historic Finch Field at 4 p.m.

South was in control most of the way against Post 8 North/Oak, a combined North Davidson/Oak Grove squad that went undefeated in pool play. Jackson Deal tossed five shutout innings as South built a 5-0 lead.

“Jackson really battled and we were playing good defense behind him,” Miller said.

Jacob Ritchie’s run-scoring double to the wall gave South a 1-0 lead in the top of the second.

Ty Hubbard scored on a balk to make it a 2-0 game in the fourth.

Hubbard and Luke Hiskey singled home runs in the fifth to push the lead to 4-0.

Patrick Holden’s sacrifice fly scored Devin Arnette to make it 5-0 in the sixth.

Deal took a two-hit shutout to the bottom of the sixth, but that’s when North/Oak rallied for four runs with five singles, an error, a hit batsman and a walk. South had a double play in the middle of all that. With the bases loaded and South clinging to a 5-4 lead, Chandler Oddie relieved Deal and got the third out on a ground ball.

“That’s been his role all year,” Miller said. “He’s been a really good relief pitcher.”

In the bottom of the seventh, Colby Culpepper came through with a two-out hit for North/Oak to plate the tying run, but Huffman, who was playing left field, threw out what would have been the winning run at the plate and sent the game to extra innings.

North/Oak had come back from a 5-0 deficit to tie and appeared to have momentum, but South took it back in the top of the eighth.

Arnette singled to start the inning. After a missed bunt sign and a harmless popup, Kane Kepley walked. Arnette and Kepley executed on a double steal before Holden walked to lead the bases.

With two men out, Joseph James lined a single to center on a 3-and-1 pitch to drive in Arnette and Kepley.

“He’s come through with some big hits in this tournament,” Miller said.

South made an error in the bottom of the eighth, but Oddie got two outs on ground balls and finished the game with a strikeout.

“It’s a good win,” Miller said. “North/Oak is a a strong team. They’re well-coached and they’ve got some great ballplayers.”

•••

NOTES: South had 11 hits, with James, Hubbard, Hiskey, Ritchie and Arnette providing two each. … South lost its first game in pool play in extra innings on Friday to R-S Central, but came back to score 28 runs to win its last two pool games to advance. … South will play R-S Central or High Point in Tuesday’s final. Those teams were playing the later semifinal on Monday and ran into some weather problems.

S. Rowan     010   121   02   — 7 11 3

North/Oak  000  004  10 —  5 9   1

W — Oddie. L — Ethan Hayes.

HR — None.

Leading hitters — South: Arnette 2-for-3, 2 runs; Ritchie 2-for-4, RBI; Hiskey 2-for-4, RBI; Hubbard 2-for-5, 3 runs; James 2-for-5, 2 RBIs. North/Oak: Culpepper 2-for-4, 2 RBIs; Alex Yarborough 2-for-4, RBI.

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