SPARTA — Mount Airy loaded the bases with none out, but couldn’t catch Alleghany in a 10-5 loss in the second round of the state 1A playoffs.
The Granite Bears trailed 10-0 at the start of the fifth inning, in danger of seeing the game end early on the mercy rule.
However, the Bears put up three runs in the top of the fifth, one in the sixth and one in the seventh to cut the lead in half.
In that seventh inning, Corbin Welch got things going with a walk. Then Mitchell Brown fought off a full-count pitch with a bloop single to left.
Jon Cagle hit an RBI single to left to make it 10-5.
Wes Bumgarner hit a grounder to short, but the throw pulled the first baseman off the bag, and everyone was safe with the bases loaded.
David Sparger worked a full count, one ball away from walking in Brown. Instead, he hit a pop-up behind the plate that the catcher snagged for the first out.
Then Kenny Overfelt struck out on an 0-2 pitch that appeared to be out of the strike zone.
Clay Mounce came in as a pinch hitter for Clay Mounce, but went down looking at strike three.
Alleghany came out swinging from the start, scoring four runs in the first inning and three runs in both the second and third innings.
The Bears could have given up or sulked, but instead made a comeback.
“I hope we’re past that,” Cawley said of giving up. “That’s not who we are and who we want to be. I didn’t expect we would.”
In the second half of the ball game, pitcher Logan Holder shut the Trojan bats down, giving the Bears a chance to come back.
However, the team did make some mental errors.
In the top of the sixth, Overfelt and Holder walked. With two outs, Brandon Shepherd hit a fly ball past first that fell in. Overfelt scored, and Shepherd and Holder advanced to second and third respectively.
Shepherd was picked off second to end the inning.
Coach Jon Cawley said that Brandon thought it was strike three on the batter and the inning was over, so he wandered off second base.
With baseball it is difficult to teach all the intricacies of a complex game in just three months, the coach said.
“With our school, we need all our best athletes playing all three sports,” Cawley said. However, that means that the boys aren’t devoting enough time to any of them to become well versed.
There was a play where a runner took off from base on a line drive and was doubled off the bag, the coach said. On a quick play like that, it takes practice and experience to react instinctively, he said.
“We have a tendency to overswing,” he added. “Our guys want it so bad.” They need experience to understand that it is okay to want something badly, but still play within themselves, he said.
Cawley said he was pleased that he got to see Alleghany’s outstanding pitcher, Austin Easter, for the first time.
It was unfortunate that Austin was hurt during the game, but if there hadn’t been a pitching change, the Bears couldn’t have come back, he said.
Easter was on the mound when the catcher fired a ball down to third to try to pick off a runner. The catcher didn’t stand up, but threw from his knees, so the ball came out low, and the pitcher never saw the throw, Cawley explained. The ball hit Easter just below the throat.
He was lucky the ball wasn’t a little higher or it could have hit him in the face, the coach said.
As for the loss, Cawley said, “Alleghany should not have scored 10 runs. It’s not always the best team that wins. I’m still not sure which team is best.”