ZEBULON — East Surry scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to defeat Whiteville in the first game of the state 1A championship series.
The Cardinals won 7-4 Friday night and play again at 11 a.m. today in the best two-out-of-three format.
The bottom half of the Cards’ lineup came through as Seth Brim, Cody Ashburn and Scott Meredith each had two hits, and Lucas Koons had and RBI sacrifice fly and reached on an error in the pivotal sixth inning.
The Wolfpack showed they can swing the bat posting four runs, three of them earned against starter Tyler Marion. The junior righthander came into the series with a sterling 0.36 ERA, but his opposite, Whiteville pitcher Zach Pait, went deep for a run, and the Wolfpack strung together some hits for a couple of runs in the top of the sixth.
“These kids have delivered at levels that are just unheard of all season,” said head coach Barry Hall. “It’s unrealistic to expect that kind of performance at this stage. It’s not like Tyler is going out to face some average team on his home mound at East Surry.
“Whiteville ain’t chopped liver,” he said. “They are an outstanding team, and they aren’t going to quit.”
The Cards drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning.
Logan Sheets reached on an error and was bunted to second by Weston Payne. Marion then singled in Sheets for a 1-0 lead.
Pait then crushed a solo homer that Hall described: “That’s about as good as you can hit one.”
In the bottom of the fourth, Alec Wilson slammed a high, long ball to deep left field, but in the spacious left field of the Carolina Mudcats’ diamond, the towering fence is 330 feet down the left-field line and 385 to the power alley.
Wilson’s shot might have gone out of some parks but was a routine fly for the first out.
That might have inspired his teammates, however, as the Cards pieced together four straight singles after that.
Madison Chilton and Seth Brim singled to put runners on the corners. Then Cody Ashburn hit a grounder through the left side to score Chilton’s courtesy runner as Brim held at second.
Scott Meredith’s single loaded the bases, and Koons hit the long fly to center to score Brim for a 3-1 lead.
In the fifth, Wilson singled before Chilton slammed a screamer down the third-base line. The ball was just a few feet from hitting the foul pole for a home run, and the Wolfpack dodged a bullet.
In the top of the sixth, the Pack got a couple of one-out singles before Pait singled to center for his second RBI. Hunter Harwood followed with a sacrifice fly to center to tie it 3-3.
Hall said what he liked about his team in this game and others this season is that the boys find a way to answer when someone scores.
In the bottom of the sixth, Brim hit a bouncer into the hole on the left side and beat out the play.
Ashburn hit a swinging bunt down the first-base line. The first baseman picked it up and flipped it to the pitcher, but Pait couldn’t handle the toss.
Meredith dropped a sacrifice bunt, but Pait then threw the ball high to allow Brim to score from third.
After Koons grounded out, Sheets took an 0-2 pitch to center to drive in Ashburn to make it 5-3.
Then the throw home trying to get Ashburn sailed over the catcher’s head to let Meredith in for a 6-3 lead.
Payne then singled to right to score Sheets for a 7-3 lead.
In the top of the seventh, Grayson Ward singled to right, and Hall decided to bring in Meredith to close out the game.
Turner Brown singled to put two aboard.
Meredith struck out the next batter, then got a grounder to short for a potential double play.
Sheets, filling in for Meredith at short, threw the ball into the Wolfpack dugout to allow a run in. But Wilson caught a fly ball in right to finish the game 7-4.
Marion earned his 13th win of the season, striking out eight in six innings.
Hall said Meredith will take the mound to start this morning’s game with Seth Brim and Cody Ashburn ready to go if needed either in that game or a potential game three.
In the previous two trips to the championship series, the Cards lost the first game, Hall noted. This is the first time he’s had the lead.
Also, he pointed out, if East wins the morning game, the Cards would tie the all-time record for the best season in state history at 32-0. And that’s for all classifications, he added.
In softball action at the state finals, North Stokes won the first game of the state 1A softball championship 3-0. The Lady Vikings will face Whiteville’s softball team again today in a similar best-of-three format.
Five County Stadium, Zebulon
Class 1-A: Game One
Whiteville 0 1 0 0 0 2 1— 4 7 3
East Surry 1 0 0 2 0 4 x— 7 12 2
WP—Tyler Marion (13-0). LP—Zach Pait (11-2). HR—Pait, Whiteville.