PILOT MOUNTAIN — The East Surry Cardinals were upset in the fourth round of the 1A State Playoffs on Saturday. The Lincoln Charter Eagles gave up just four hits in a 2-0 victory over the top-seeded Cardinals.
“We’ve got to give credit to their pitcher, [Ryan] Restino,” said East Surry coach Chad Freeman. “We knew going in that he was a crafty lefty.”
Restino needed just 81 pitches to defeat East Surry (23-3). Restino allowed East to hit short ground balls and pop-flys rather than strike out every batter, only totaling three strikeouts in seven innings.
“He’s not an overpowering pitcher,” Freeman said. “We knew we were going to have to try to stay back, since he wasn’t going to blow it past us, but that’s a little tougher said than done sometimes.”
“At times we had good approaches, ” Freeman continued. “We hit some balls hard and had some opportunities and just couldn’t pull through, and other times he got the best of us and we had a lot of weak contact.”
The Cardinals wasted little time in reaching scoring position. Lead-off batter John Marion hammered a line drive to left-center field on just his second pitch for a double. Marion advanced to third on a sacrifice from AJ Wilson, but there were already two outs. A ground ball to first ended the inning with Marion on third.
East continued its offense in the second inning when Cameron Whitaker led off with a single. Whitaker was then called out at second on a fielder’s choice on Nick Shoffner’s grounder. Trevor Hauser advanced Shoffner to second on a ground ball up the third-base line. Colby Guy slammed the ball left-center field. Shoffner rounded third and headed home, but was called out at the plate. The Cards once again ended the inning with runners in scoring position.
It took the Eagles (21-5) three innings to really find their footing on offense. In that time, Cardinal pitcher Kain Kiser had six strikeouts and allowed zero hits.
“Kain threw a pretty good game for us,” Freeman said. “We just had one inning where he was a little off and they were able to take advantage of it. Other than that though, he had a solid game.”
The inning that Freeman alluded to was the top of the fourth. Lincoln Charter’s Jackson Farnsworth led-off with a grounder to the right of the mound. Farnsworth made it to first due to a Cardinal fielding error. Farnsworth was followed by the Eagles’ first hit of the afternoon, a single from Zach Horton.
Horton’s single moved Farnsworth to second. Catcher Spencer Bright then sent the ball straight up the middle of the field for an RBI single, scoring Farnsworth.
Up 1-0, Restino approached the plate. Restino attempted a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners on first and second, but the umpire said a pitch hit the batter. Freeman called time to talk with the umpire, claiming the ball hit the bat instead of Restino’s hand, but the official stood by the call and sent the runner to first.
The bases were loaded when Kiser got the first out of the inning with a strikeout. Matthew Upchurch was then hit by a pitch, allowing Horton to cross the plate and increasing the lead to 2-0. Kiser ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
Momentum had shifted, and the Cardinals struggled to get on base. In the bottom of the third, fourth, and fifth innings, only one East Surry player got on base. Guy was walked in the bottom of the fifth. Of the nine outs in those innings, five came from pop-flys and four were groundouts.
The Cards were able to connect with the ball, but weren’t able to get on base. Defense kept the score from increasing, but time was running out for a Cardinal comeback. Kiser provided a spark of hope for the Cardinal faithful with a double in the bottom of the sixth. This would, however, be the final hit of East Surry’s season.
Kiser threw his 12th and final strikeout of the game in the top of the seventh inning. Jefferson Boaz was brought in for the final out. Boaz struck out Horton to end the top of the seventh and give East Surry one final chance to come back. Three Cardinals approached the plate and three were sent back to the dugout as Lincoln Charter booked a ticket to the Western Regional Final. The Eagles are looking for their first-ever appearance in the state championship game.
“I’m still proud of the kids, you can’t ask for more effort from them,” Freeman said. “Just couldn’t pull it though. It’s hard to deal with, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Five Cardinal seniors played their final high school game on Saturday. In the past two years, East Surry has won back-to-back conference championships and conference tournaments, in addition to having a combined record of 43-8.
“We’re definitely going to miss those five guys,” Freeman said
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