Three errors with two outs led to three runs in the fifth and sixth innings as Amherst County held off a late Carroll County rally for a 4-3 victory May 23 in a Region 4D Quarterfinal in Hillsville.
Playing in their first regional playoff game in 10 years, the resurgent Cavaliers had played wonderfully behind the pitching of junior ace Kyle Robinson, who allowed just six hits and one earned run in six innings of work. But with Carroll County (10-9) leading 1-0 in the fifth inning, errors began to plague the Cavaliers.
Reed Dawson led the frame off with a walk and took second on Chris Thomason’s bunt single. The duo both moved up on stolen bases, but Robinson got Kyle Orme to fly out to center field and Timmy Byers to hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Dawson. With two outs, an infield grounder was booted, allowing Amherst to surge ahead 2-1.
In the sixth inning, Seth Mays reached on a bloop single with one out. With two outs, another infield grounder was booted, keeping the inning alive. Thomason added an RBI single for a 3-1 lead. Another potential third out was dropped on a pop up to the outfield, allowing one more run to come home and giving Amherst a 4-1 advantage.
Carroll County head coach Kevin DeHaven said the loss was reminiscent of the Cavaliers’ 0-4 start to the season when they lost all four by two runs or less before winning 10 of their final 15 games.
“We were so close. Just the fifth and sixth innings they scored two runs apiece on extra outs and errors, ground balls and a dropped fly ball to right that would have been the third out,” DeHaven said. “It’s hard to overcome. The guys never gave up. They were into it until the last out. You couldn’t ask for anything more from this group.”
Indeed, Carroll went down fighting in the bottom of the seventh inning. With one out, Dustin Dalton drew a walk and then moved to third on pinch-hitter Dylan Rodrigue’s single to right center. Dalton then scored on a double steal after Rodrigue successfully swiped second base.
Down 4-2 with one out and a man on second, Jackson Hull made things even tighter with a single past first base, moving Rodrigue to third. Hull was then gunned down trying to steal second base for the second out of the inning.
“I maybe got too aggressive there, but we have been doing that all season,” DeHaven said. “I wasn’t going to stop being aggressive now.”
And yet, Carroll continued to fight, trimming the margin to 4-3 when Cole Montgomery’s RBI single to shortstop scored Rodrigue. With two outs and the winning run at the plate represented by the Cavaliers’ top power hitter, Hayden Farmer, Carroll came oh so close to pulling off a miraculous comeback. Farmer hammered a 3-1 offering from Amherst’s Timmy Byers, but just got under it, resulting in a game-ending pop up to center field.
“When I talked to Hayden I said, ‘Just be patient and walk it off,’” DeHaven said. “He just missed it, just barely.”
Carroll broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning thanks to an error by the Lancers. Nick Bell led the inning off with a single to center field and moved up to second on a bunt by Lance Rotenizer. Bell took third on a wild pitch and Blake Stanley reached on a fielder’s choice.
With one out, a base-running miscue by Stanley actually turned in the Cavaliers’ favor. On Brandon Martin’s high pop up to shallow right field, Stanley inadvertently took off toward second, nearly getting himself caught in an inning-ending double play. Instead, he realized his mistake just in time to hustle back to first, causing an errant throw back that allowed him to get back to the bag, giving Bell time to score the go-ahead run.
“Kyle struggled getting ahead but he threw his butt off and kept us in the game. It was 1-0 and then we started booting the ball and making errors,” DeHaven said. “Even when we made a couple of errors in a row he found ways to get productive outs, to get out of jams with runners on first and second, and second and third one time. Kyle is really blossoming into an ace. He is a junior and so I am looking for him and the rest of the nine juniors to hopefully be a load next year.”
And that team should have plenty of momentum. The Cavs will bring back all but two players from a squad that won 10 games for the first time since 2011.
“After the first four games we changed some things up in practice. The kids, especially the two seniors (Farmer and Nick Bell), really bought into having a plan at the plate, a process of going through at bats. They really bought into the plan and it paid off,” DeHaven said. “We were 10-5 in our last 15 games. It was fun. The first four were agonizing. But it was a good group of really good young men. The two seniors were great, good leaders. Now I am looking for bigger and better things next year. We have 17, brought three JVs up, so 15 are back plus the rest that will come up and try out from JVs, so it looks very promising.”
Amherst 000 022 0 – 6 3 3
Carroll Co. 000 100 2 – 3 6 5
Hargis, Byers (7) and Knight (A); Robinson, Hull (7) and Crotts (CC). WP – Hargis. LP – Robinson.
Allen Worrell can be reached at (276) 779-4062 or on Twitter@AWorrellTCN