In a game in which second place in Region 3-AA was hanging in the balance, Fairfield Central answered Tyler Bowers’ two-run blast in the top of the sixth by pushing across the tying and winning runs in the home portion of the inning to take a 3-2 win over visiting North Central.
The Tuesday night contest in Winnsboro clicked along, with a final playing time of 80 minutes, as the host Griffins secured a first round AA state playoff home game with a 7-3 league ledger.
The Knights, who travel to Buford for tonight’s non-conference 5 p.m. doubleheader, closed out 3-AA play at 5-5. NC will travel to meet either Buford or Indian Land in next Thursday’s state tourney opener.
Tuesday’s loss was the third one-run setback of the region season for Robbie Cash’s troops and second to Fairfield Central. Instead of hiding behind the ‘coulda, woulda, shoulda’ defense, the NC boss praised his team and their effort.
“Our guys played a very good game,” he said. “I just have to coach our team better in order to get us over the hump. You can put this loss on my shoulders.”
The defeat spoiled a six-inning, four-hit effort from Bowers. The junior right-hander fanned seven while walking three.
The hosts scored the game’s first run in the fourth as Compton Walker led off with a single before stealing second. Taking third on a Stanley McManus bunt, Walker scored on Chris Boyd’s two-out single to left.
Meanwhile, McManus was throwing shutout ball in blanking the Knights on one hit, a Broderick Gaither single in the fourth, until the guests took the lead in the sixth.
With one out, Cam Holley laced a single to right before going to second on a balk. Either way, he would have scored as Bowers unloaded on a McManus fastball which went beyond the hitting wall which is located behind the 365-foot marker in right center field for a two-run home run. The blast was the sophomore’s sixth long ball of the season and his 101st career hit.
“Tyler did a great job on the mound for us and limiting the damage which Fairfield Central can do on the bases with their athleticism,” Cash said. “And he has been on a home run tear recently. None of his home runs have been cheapies, either. He is really hitting the ball hard.”
The Griffins responded with a pair in the bottom of the inning as Javaris Cook led off with a single and then was ruled safe on a disputed steal of second base. He scored on Walker’s single. Walker was later gunned down at third base on a steal attempt.
McManus kept the inning going as he was hit by a pitch and later, scored from second on Boyd’s two-out double to center field.
NC threatened in the top of the seventh, placing runners on first and second with two outs, before McManus struck out the final batter of the night. McManus limited the visitors to four hits while striking out 10 batters in a complete game effort.