Nichirin claims top spot in extra inning win
Nichirin and the Farm Center of Chapel Hill took to the diamond Thursday night tied for first place in the Marshall County Babe Ruth standings and for seven innings there was still no victor before second-year manager Bradley Maddox's squad came up with three runs in the top of the eighth to go ahead 6-3.
In the bottom of the eighth, Nichirin southpaw relief man Cameron Isley slammed the door shut on the farm boys with a 1-2-3 performance to take a stranglehold of the top spot.
"Their effort was outstanding tonight," said Maddox after the game. "It was an exciting game, Chapel Hill has a great team and they had us on our toes all night."
Farm Center starter Blake Leonard had an easy top of the first inning and his teammates put up a two-spot in the bottom of the frame, beginning with a one-out walk by Boone Sweeney.
Leonard followed with a double to center field to put runners on second and third.
Nichirin ace David Looney whiffed the next batter for the second out, but an infield error on a hot shot off the bat of Bryce Oliver sent both runners to the plate.
Looney got out of the inning on a ground ball out to Stuart Warner at third base.
"We kind of had a rough first inning, but we bounced back and played every inning after that and I am proud of them," said Maddox.
Leonard and Looney pitched a scoreless second inning and Josh McKnight led off the bottom of the inning with a base hit to right field.
A passed ball sent McKnight to second before Leonard got a strikeout for the first out.
A balk by Leonard moved McKnight to third and Ta Ta Davis knocked him in on an RBI grounder to third to make it 2-1.
The Farm Center did not score in the home half of the inning despite a one-out single by Leonard and an Isley one-out base hit in the top of the fourth inning was wasted by Nichirin.
Looney mowed down the farm boys in the bottom of the frame when he struck out the side.
Landon Jones came to the hill for Chapel Hill in the fifth and he was rudely greeted by a base hit by Gunner Southerland.
Jones walked two out of the next three batters to load the sacks before drilling Hunter Talley with a pitch that scored Southerland to knot the contest at 2.
Tanner Garvin came on for Jones and he proceeded to walk Jay Howard, scoring McKnight to give Nichirin a 3-2 lead.
Garvin got out of the jam and Jones made up for his wildness on the hill with a one-out double to center in the bottom of the inning.
Sweeney was beaned by Looney and Leonard drew a base on balls to load the bases for Chapel Hill.
Looney whiffed the next batter, but the game was knotted again when Oliver worked an RBI base on balls.
Defense was the key for both clubs in the sixth as Warner and Conner Mealer bashed back-to-back hits to start the inning, but a nice 5-3 double play, followed by strikeout thwarted the Nichirin rally.
Warner came to the hill for Nichirin in the home half of the inning and struck out the first two batters he faced before issuing a walk to Jesse Darnell.
The unsuspecting Darnell was picked off at first by Warner to end the inning and both clubs could not produce a go-ahead run in the seventh, sending the contest to extra innings.
Looney led off the eighth with a walk and was standing on third with two outs when the Chapel Hill defense caved in on two consecutive errors to put Nichirin up 5-3.
McKnight made it a 6-3 ballgame when he drilled an RBI single, setting up Isley's masterful 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to give Nichirin the win.
"I feel like we are the team to beat," said Maddox. "I don't want it to go to their heads, but I want them to know that they are a good ball team and can go out and play at that level every night."