Small ball led to an overthrown ball, leading to a wild pitch which was all it took for North Central to come away with a 10-9, 10-inning win over visiting Cheraw in a Tuesday night game in which the hosts overcame a 9-0 deficit after three and a half innings of play.
With the game knotted at nine, NC’s Michael Williamson led off the home half of the 10th by drawing a walk. Jeremiah Jenkins then laid down a sacrifice bunt which was overthrown to first base as the Knights had runners on the corners with no outs.
With Markeis Barnes at the plate and Cheraw changing pitchers, NC assistant coach Brandon Faulkenberry suggested to head coach Robbie Cash that Barnes show bunt and then pull the bat back. The move paid off with a wild pitch allowing Williamson to come in with the game-winning run.
"Coach Faulkenberry made a great call at the end of the game with the fake squeeze play," Cash said. "They just brought in a new pitcher and they weren’t expecting that move."
The victory gave Cash and company a 5-5 overall record and a 3-2 ledger in Region 4-AA play heading into tonight’s game at Central.
Even Cash probably never saw this one coming, however, after the Braves scored once in the top of the first before adding four runs in each of the third and fourth frames to grab a 9-0 lead. NC did not do itself any favors as the hosts left runners on the corners in the second inning and had the bases jammed with one out in the third only to come up empty both times.
"We started this game like we had no desire to be out there," Cash said of his team’s play in the first three-plus innings. "And, to make matters worse, we were getting guys on base but we were unable to drive them in."
That all changed for the Knights in a three-run fourth as Dylan Hendrix kicked off the one-out rally with a walk. Alex Tarlton then worked his way for a walk before Cam Holley’s single to left loaded the bases. Tyler Bowers was then hit by a pitch to bring Hendrix across. Stephen Barrett would hit into a fielders’ choice to drive in Tarlton before Holey scored on a passed ball to make it 9-3.
Two innings later, NC tacked on four more runs to cut the deficit to 9-7.
Jenkins ignited the sixth inning with a leadoff single to right. With one gone, Tarlton delivered a single to right field to put runners on the corners before Holley drew a walk to load the bags for Tyler Bower. A passed ball brought Jenkins across with a Bowers single to right knocking in Tarlton with the fifth run. A Chase Stephens single would drive in both Holley and Bowers.
With his team within striking distance, Cash went to Bowers in the seventh. The junior right-hander, working his fourth straight game, would go the final four frames as he allowed just one hit while striking out six Braves in working his way to the mound win.
"We decided to bring Tyler in once we had a chance to win the game and he proceeded to mow them down," Cash said of Bowers’ sterling effort in relief.
The Knights evened things with a pair in the seventh with Hendrix drawing a leadoff walk before a double play put Cheraw within an out of closing the game. But the hosts had something left in the tank.
A Holley walk was followed by a Bowers single to center. Bowers went to second on the throw back to the infield as NC had runners on second and third for Barrett whose single to left plated both runners to knot things at 9-9.
The Knights out-hit Cheraw, 11-8, while making five errors to the visitors’ three.
Bowers and Barrett led the NC offense with three hits with each player driving in a pair of runs. Stephens also had a two-RBI night as he was one of seven Knights who contributed at least one hit toward the win.
The victory was a measure of revenge for NC which had been knocked out of the state playoffs by Cheraw in each of the two previous seasons. When Cheraw head coach David Byrd met with Cash after the game, the Braves’ boss told Cash, "I guess karma’s kind of funny. I owed you one."
Cash was less concerned with mystical spirits than he was the final tally on the scoreboard in Boonetown as his team moved into a second place in Region 4-AA behind Buford.
"I’m proud of our guys for coming back and for their never say die attitude," he said. "There was a point in this game where we had a chance to be 10-run ruled but our guys rallied and came all the way back to win a big ballgame."