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L-E falls to Cavs in all-too-familiar fashion, 5-4

Posted: April 9, 2014 3:21 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2014 5:00 a.m.

For a scant few seconds, players from both benches spilled out onto the apron of the infield waiting to see the landing spot of Bradwin Salmond’s drive to right field in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s Lugoff-Elgin game with visiting Richland Northeast.
Unfortunately for the host Demons, the ball settled into the glove of RNE rightfielder Garrett Loman as his Cavlier teammatesgathered to welcome back Loman to the dugout while several L-E players fell to their knees after having thought the ball was leaving the premises.
A half-inning later, an L-E error led to what proved to be the winning run as the Cavs left Optimist Field with a 5-4 Region 4-4A victory. The one-run win was nothing new in this series in which Thane Maness’ squad seems to have L-E’s number. Earlier this season, RNE edged the Demons, 2-1, in Columbia.
Making this loss even tougher to swallow was the fact that earlier in the evening, co-conference leader --- with L-E --- Blythewood lost a 1-0 decision to a Spring Valley team which won its first league game of the season.
L-E (9-6, 4-2 in 4-4A) was ever-so-close to coming out of this one at 5-1 league play as Salmond’s drive was hauled in a few steps from the fence in the right field corner which Loman ran into after having made the two-out grab.
“I thought it had a good chance,” said L-E head coach Randy Stokes of Salmond’s drive going for a walk-ff home run. “I don’t think he got all of it. I think he hit it on his hands, a little bit. It put a charge in us, though.”
Loman’s catch was his second of the night either at or near the fence. His first came when he slid into the fence in right to rob Hunter McManus of what surely would have been an extra base hit with courtesy runner Shon Belton on first base with no outs in the third when the hosts had a 3-0 lead.
“They were two very good plays,” Stokes said of Loman’s catches. “Who knows what happens if that ball (off McManus’s bat) falls or, we get one of those balls that were hit on the ground.”
The Demons carried a 3-0 lead into the third inning before RNE scored four times in the top of the third and nursed that advantage until the hosts tied things with a run in the bottom of the seventh, a frame which ended with L-E runners occupying each base.
In what would be L-E starter Zac Bowers’ final inning of work, the Cavaliers had runners on second and third with one out only to see the senior right-hander get Zach Crumlich swinging to end the threat and Bowers’ night with a ground ball out.
After Salmond’s near miss, Stokes went to another senior righty, Jake Brazell, to start the ninth after Bowers threw 132 pitches.
“Zac never struggled or looked like he was tired,” Stokes said of Bowers. “At this time of year, in the shape he’s in, he can go that long and bounce back. He was working on seven days’ rest, too.
“I told (L-E pitching coach) Jeremy (Ray) before the game that we’ll let Zac go a little deeper tonight than he’s been going. He’ll have seven days off, again, before we run him back out there.”
The top of the ninth opened with RNE leadoff man Harrison Merck reaching on a throwing error. Henry Taylor then worked his way for a walk with the pair advancing on a passed ball. With no outs, Wake Forest signee and winning pitcher Jake Mueller went down swinging for the first out. Ryne Maness then sent a fly ball to McManus in center whose throw to the plate skipped off the pitcher’s mound and into the glove of catcher Danny Bowen. But Merck’s head-first slide beat the throw on a bang-bang play at the plate to give the lead back to RNE at 5-4.
Mueller, who came on in relief of Maness in the fourth inning, earned the win as the righty allowed one run on four hits with four strikeouts along with working a perfect ninth.
Maness, who was the winning pitcher in RNE’s 2-1 victory over L-E earlier this season, was roughed up early by the Demons. The hosts scored one in the first and two in the second as they collected half of their 12 hits in the first two innings. But they also stranded four in leaving some runs on the base paths.
Cody Mailly got the Demons going by reaching on an error to lead off the home portion of the first. He went to second on Russ Radcliff’s infield single. Gunner Smith then rapped a run-scoring single to left to plate Mailly for the first run as L-E left Radcliff on third.
An inning later, Brock Robinson ripped a leadoff single to center before Danny Bowen’s sacrifice bunt moved Robinson up a base. McManus singled to left to put runners on the corners before swiping second. Mailly’s bunt single brought Robinson home before Salmond’s infield single brought McManus in with the third run.
RNE grabbed a 4-3 lead with a four-run third after Merck, Taylor and Mueller each had consecutive singles. Joe Starter brought the first run across when he was hit off the helmet with the bases jammed. Following Justin Davidson’s run-producing ground out, Shannon Glover hit a liner to shortstop which took a nasty hop over the head of Radcliff to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs.
Mueller was able to shut the Demons down until the bottom of the seventh when Radcliff got on with a one-out single to center and went to second when Smith followed with a single to left. Blake Serpas tied the game with a one-out single to center before Mikey Branham was issued an intentional pass to load the bases with one out. Mueller got a strikeout and a ground out to send the game into extra innings.
For the second straight contest, L-E left 10 runners on base, including having the bases full in the seventh. “Early on,” Stokes said, “we left some runners on in scoring position. The first three innings, we left a guy on third with less than two outs. We had some opportunities which I was hoping would not come back to bite us.”
The Demons out-hit RNE, 12-7, with the hosts getting two hits each from Radcliff, Smith, Branham and Robinson.
“Our kids have done a good job at the plate,” Stokes said. “We put some balls in play and we’re not striking out much. We might have gotten out of our game at the end when we might have been trying to hit one out. We didn’t execute in a couple innings and that may have cost us a run but we’re not going to be perfect.”
And while it was an imperfect result from L-E’s perspective, Stokes said this game did not stray from previous ones with RNE.
 “I knew they weren’t going to go away. They have too much pride,” Stokes said. “Thane instills a lot of pride into those guys.
“Every game that we’ve played with them the last couple years seems to come down to one run, extra innings or, something like that … it’s always a battle when we play them.”

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