Chargers fall in Game 2, face regional title showdown
The Northwood Chargers didn’t know quite what hit them Saturday, as they blew a five-run lead in the bottom of the sixth inning and lost on a walk-off single with two outs in the seventh.
The news wasn’t all bad for Northwood (25-6), which now stands tied 1-1 in its best-of-three East Region 2-A championship series with North Brunswick (16-11).
In fact, the Chargers didn’t appear the least bit fazed afterward, cheering in a team postgame huddle in left field when told by Coach Rick Parks: “So what? You lost. So you get to play more baseball on Monday night. Who wouldn’t want to play more baseball?”
The decisive Game 3 will be played in Pittsboro on Monday at 6 p.m.
But on Saturday night, the joy was reserved for a disbelieving North Brunswick dugout.
The host Scorpions took the field with the highest of expectations, starting ace righthander Shelton Perkins. Asked before the game what Perkins’ won-lost record was, a teammate asked Perkins, then relayed: “8-2, but it’ll be 9-2 after tonight.”
It didn’t turn out that way. Northwood drove Perkins from the game in a four-run fourth inning, adding on to a 1-0 lead the Chargers had taken in the top of the second.
And it didn’t look like the Chargers would have any problem holding that lead. No. 2 starter Steven Strong was on the mound and living up to his last name. He faced only two batters over the minimum in his first five innings, allowing one hit, an infield single to Jared Strange leading off the first.
But it all came apart in the sixth. It seemed harmless enough at the time, but Parks would later call it a momentum changer.
Leading off the sixth, Jonathan McKee walked and went to second on a single by Chase Golden. The Northwood runners moved to second and third on a passed ball, and the 5-0 lead seemed certain to expand.
But Adam Lowe grounded to second, was thrown out at first, and first baseman Tyler Barnes caught Golden napping too far off second. His throw to Perkins, who went to shortstop after leaving the mound, got Golden for a double play.
Northwood came up empty when Jordan Riggsbee struck out.
“When we stranded those guys at second and third, they got a lot of momentum,” Parks said. “Sometimes it just works that way.”
In the bottom half of the sixth, Strong gave up four straight hits including two doubles and Riggsbee’s errant throw from left field shaved the lead to 5-3 with none out and a runner on third. Strong got the first out on a pop to short, but then he hit two straight batters to load the bases.
Relief pitcher Garrett Scott came on and gave up a sacrifice fly and a game-tying RBI single by Davon Perkins.
“We came out flat,” Barnes said. “But in the sixth, something clicked. I don’t know what it was.”
Northwood got the potential go-ahead run to second base in the top of the seventh but stranded him there.
Scott gave up a one-out single to Kevon Perkins in the bottom of the inning, Perkins stole second and took third on a passed ball by Northwood catcher Andrew Webster. It appeared for a moment that he might stay there. Scott got Northwood’s first strikeout of the night and it was huge — No. 3 hitter Jacob Shuman, who relieved Perkins and got the win.
But cleanup hitter Barnes, 0-for-3 to that point and without having hit the ball out of the infield, hit a soaring fly to deep left over Riggsbee’s head and off the fence, scoring Perkins with the winning run.
“I went up there trying to forget all those other at-bats,” Barnes said. “I was excited to hit in that situation. I knew one was coming for me, and it did.”
NOTES — Having used Strong and undefeated ace Robert Straughn (13-0) in the first two games of the series, Parks will use Clark Streets in Game 3. Streets pitched well in the state quarterfinal win over rival Carrboro that got Northwood to the East Regional championship series. “I feel good about our situation,” Parks said.
N. Brunswick 6, Northwood 5
Northwood, Steven Strong, Garrett Scott (6) and Andrew Webster; N. Brunswick, Shelton Perkins, Jacob Shumate (4) and Shak Graham. WP—Shumate, LP—Scott. Leading hitters—Northwood, Trevon Hackney 2-2, Dillon Stasko 2-3 (2B, RBI); N. Brunswick, Jared Strange 2-3, Kevon Perkins 2-4 (RBI).
Records—Northwood 25-6, North Brunswick 16-11.