Elks loosen Nichirin's clamp on top spot
The eleven-time defending Marshall County Babe Ruth champion Elks put a damper on Nichirin's title run Tuesday night via a 6-4 upset win.
"They played better ball tonight," said Elks' skipper Shane Hobbs. "We cut down on most errors, we made a few, but they hit the ball and the pitching came through for us."
After beating the Farm Center of Chapel Hill Thursday night to take a one-game lead for first place, Nichirin could not muster the magic against a resilient Elks squad that was led by a stellar outing by Chandler Harmon on the mound.
Harmon gave up zero earned runs on three hits and struck out eight Nichirin batters in his five innings of work before Curt Taylor came on to toss two solid innings to earn the save.
"I am proud of both Harmon and Taylor who did their jobs on the mound," said Hobbs. "They helped us with a few walks, but we got some timely hits when we needed them."
Leadoff man Wilson Limbaugh got things going in the top of the first for the Elks when he reached second base on the first of four Nichirin errors in the contest.
Limbaugh took off for third moments later and when the throw to get him sailed into left field, Limbaugh scored to give the Elks a lead they would never surrender.
Harmon worked his way out of two-on, no-out jam in the bottom of the inning and turned his Houdini act again in the bottom of the second when he escaped a bases loaded one-out mess.
Carson Walker walked to leadoff the Elks' third and stole second before being awarded third base on a balk by Nichirin starter Stuart Warner.
Limbaugh also drew a base on balls and stole second before another Nichirin error sent both runners to the plate, making it a three-zip contest.
Jay Howard walked to lead-off the bottom of the inning for Nichirin and proceeded to swipe second base.
Howard would come around to score when he stole third and scored on an Elks' error in an attempt to try to get him out on the play.
Warner drew a walk, but Harmon struck out the next three Nichirin batters swinging to end the inning.
Warner set down the Elks 1-2-3 in the top of the fourth, as did Harmon in the home half of the frame.
Ben Taylor drilled a two-out double to left in the top of the fifth and Harmon drove Taylor home when he traded spots with him at second base.
Harmon whiffed the first two batters in the home half of the inning before Howard doubled to the gap in left/center.
Warner reached on an Elks error that scored Howard and Cameron Isley followed with a base on balls.
Another miscue allowed Warner to trot to make it 4-3, but Harmon struck out the next batter to maintain the one-run lead.
Will Johnson drilled a one-out single in the top of the fifth before a pair of walks to J. D. Crabtree and Iendi Biggers put Elks on all three sacks.
Walker was hit by a Warner pitch for an RBI and Crabtree would scoot home moments later on a passed to make it 6-3.
Taylor came on for Harmon in the bottom of the inning and gave up one run, beginning with a Madison Peete base hit to center with one out.
Peete would round the base on a passed ball and an infield error to make it a 6-4 ballgame before Taylor got out of the jam on a liner to Derrick McKnight at first base, followed by a grounder back to mound.
Isley came on in relief of Warner in the seventh and kept the Elks from scoring.
Taylor induced to ground ball to younger brother Ben at third for the first two outs in the home half of the inning and the upset was complete when Johnson squeezed a pop-up to second to end the game.
Nichirin and the Farm Center entered Thursday's slate of game with identical 7-2 records with Nichirin having three games remaining versus IMI, MMC, and the Elks, while Chapel Hill plays A-Plus twice and finishes their regular season slate against IMI.