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Rebels, Eagles fall in semifinal classics

Rebels, Eagles fall in semifinal classics
Rebels, Eagles fall in semifinal classics
South Central pitcher Paul Brown gets some encouragement from his teammates during the Rebels' extra-inning tussle with second-ranked Orleans. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

Baseball fans at the Lanesville 1A Sectional got the deal of a lifetime. For just $4, they got to watch a pair of extra-inning affairs under sunny skies and highlighted by good plays, bad plays and everything in between.
Game one saw the No. 2-ranked Orleans Bulldogs and South Central square off in what could only be described as a classic: The two teams went scoreless through eight innings and combined for just four hits until the ninth.
That’s when Orleans sent 11 batters to the plate, scored seven runs and put the outing away, 7-1, to advance to the final.
The Bulldogs later defeated Springs Valley 5-1 in the title game.
Until that fateful eighth inning, South Central (12-10) sophomore twirler Paul Brown had struck out 10 batters. However, he slowly unraveled in the top of the ninth, surrendering five runs before giving way to Josh McRae with two outs. Orleans scored twice more before Jay Gerkin lined out to short.
“That was a great game,” South coach Dr. Richard Brown said. “Paul just ran out of gas there at the end. I was planning on staying with him until he was ready to come out. I knew we could play with these guys. I was happy with the game.
“Had that one call gone our way there earlier, we’re playing in the championship. Instead, we have to settle for what might have been.”
The call Brown referred to came in the second frame when Gary Graf led off with an infield single and two outs later Deavon Wiseman slapped a ball down the right field line. The home plate umpire called it foul even though the ball landed two inches inside fair territory.
“That call got bigger and bigger as the game went on,” Brown said.
Orleans’ ace, Adam Poole, struck out 13 in eight innings and threw so hard that Brown elected to bunt with two strikes several times in the game.
“Sometimes you have to try and force the issue by doing that from time to time. He struck out so many guys this year that we wanted to try and make their defense make plays. I just wanted to get the ball in play. We just couldn’t get a good bunt down,” South’s skipper said.
The Bulldogs (20-3) broke loose in the top of the ninth, beginning with a single by Kris Dillard. Gerkin moved him over on a sacrifice bunt and Brandon Stroud popped out to short. Ben Carroll roped one to left for an RBI, Matthew Cote reached on an error, and Alex Hole hit a line-drive single to left for another run.
Jimmy Lawyer walked on four pitches to end Brown’s day. McRae came on in relief but gave up back-to-back two-run singles to Alex Fugate and Chad Eagan for the final runs. South scored in its last at-bat as well when Brown reached on a two-out error, moved to second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on an error by Orleans’ Dillard.
“I’ve got everyone coming back,” Brown said. “Maybe we can be back here again next year and pull this one out. I was happy with the guys and the way they played when Orleans had runners on base.”
Lanesville head coach Greg Bowen recently accepted a math teaching position at Jeffersonville High School and will be a varsity assistant for the Red Devils’ football team.
Depending on the day, his last game at the helm of the Eagles will either be one he’ll never forget or one that he’d just as well look past.
Lanesville took the best Springs Valley had to offer in sectional semifinal play and dealt some hard blows of its own. In the end, however, the Eagles — who had won 10 of their last 12 games — fell 11-10 in a slugfest.
Valley had won five straight sectionals coming into the newly aligned tournament at Lanesville. So what made the loss so forgettable, yet so memorable?
Perhaps it was the battle-toughness of Bowen’s team, which coughed up leads of 8-1 and 9-3, tied the contest at 9-9, took the lead at 10-9, and then lost 11-10.
Super plays were countered by booted balls. Clutch strikeouts were matched by bases-loaded walks. It was the epitome of ying vs. yang. “You hate to lose a game where you are ahead like that, but even when they came back and tied it at 9-9, we came back and took the lead; they came back and tied it,” Bowen said. “It was a great baseball game. We just came out on the wrong side.”
Justin Wallace started the game, but Eagle ace Andrew Denny was hit with the loss. Bowen said he went with his No. 2 man to save Denny for a possible date in the championship game.
“We were ahead with my No. 2, and really they didn’t start getting their runs until late. I brought someone fresh in, and it didn’t quite work out,” Lanesville’s skipper said.
The Eagles jumped ahead in the first when Ryan McCulloch walked and Nic Acton, who was a perfect 5-5 on the day with a pair of RBI, singled to left. Denny hit one to center to mark two runs. Lanesville added another one in the third after Acton singled, Denny reached on an error, and Nathan Barnickle hit one to left for the RBI. They continued to swing the hot bat in the fourth, plating five more runs.
Steve Lewis, Isaac Wernert, McCulloch and Acton all scored for Lanesville.
After the game was tied at 9-9, Acton punched an RBI single to left-center to give the Eagles a short-lived lead.
Valley bounced back in its frame and wound up crossing the game-winner in the eighth in heart-breaking fashion: With two outs, Blake Allen walked and stole second. Denny tried to pick the runner, but the throw was a tad high and nicked off McCulloch’s glove. Then Josh Gonya pulled one into the left-center field gap to plate the game-winner.
“We made a few errors, but I don’t think Andrew can really be faulted for his throw. It just got a little away, and the next guy up did a good job of hitting it,” Bowen said. “What won’t go in the box score is him pitching out of a bases-loaded jam or us leaving 14 of their runners on base. We came into this game expecting to win and it almost happened.”