Infield single in 8th does in Orange in 3-A series opener
A squib. That’s all it was, just a little dribbler. But the excuse-me single that never left the infield gave Greenville D.H. Conley the go-ahead run in the top of the eighth inning to deflate host Orange 4-3 in the state 3-A baseball semifinals Thursday night.
“They got a ball that I think (relief pitcher) Jon Evans normally fields 99 out of 100 times,” Orange coach Dean Dease said. “He sort of slipped a little bit and it got by him, a bang-bang play at first, runner scores from third with two outs and that was it.”
The rain-delayed, extra-inning nail-biter was the first game in a best-of-three series. Play is expected to move to Greenville on Friday night, assuming Conley’s rain-soaked field is ready.
“It’s not one and done. It’s a series,” Dease said he told his players after the heartbreaking loss. “We’ve still got two games to play so let’s win them and move on.”
Orange had its chances in the see-saw battle, during which they left nine runners on base while Vikings coach Jason Mills made three pitching changes. The game also featured some sixth-inning heroics from Panther Brandon Wood, who slammed a two-run homer, his first since last season.
“It was just a perfect pitch, high and inside. That’s where I like them,” the little left fielder said. “I turned on it, pulled my hands through, made contact. I was trying to hit it in the gap. I felt it off the bat and I kind of knew it was gone.”
Dease said the game went about as he expected between the two high-win teams.
“I’ve known Coach Mills a long time. I knew that squad was going to be well coached and talented, and it came down to extra innings,” Dease said.
The Panthers jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first when second baseman Joe Piscitelli drew a leadoff walk, was pushed to second on a bunt single by Evans and moved up to third on a single by first baseman Andrew Toney. Designated hitter Brad Debo drove Piscitelli home on a fielder’s choice.
The Vikings strung together four consecutive hits in the top of the sixth to go up 3-1, stranding runners at second and third to end the inning.
Shortstop Davis Kirkpatrick led off with a single and first baseman Bryant Packard doubled him to third. Left fielder Matt Boyd cleared the bases with a follow-up double and scored when third baseman Ryan Maness singled. Right fielder Aaron Martin walked, and the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. But Wilson whiffed the next two batters to end the bleeding.
Orange tied it up at 3 in the bottom of the sixth with some clutch two-out lightning.
First baseman Andrew Toney led off with a single but the next two batters failed to reach base. That’s when Brandon Wood turned unlikely power hitter and slammed a pitch over the right field fence.
The Vikings went on top 4-3 in the eighth with some two-out heroics of their own after Packard drilled a double and moved to third on a ground out. Martin drove him home with the excuse-me single. Evans slipped to the ground on the pitch, helplessly watching the ball dribble just past him.
D.H. Conley 4, Orange 3, 8 inn.
(Conley leads best-of-3 series 1-0)
Conley 000 003 01 — 4 8 0
Orange 100 002 00 —3 7 1
Conley, Peyton Ahlers, Dylan Nichols (6), Mike Fuller (6), Kirkpatrick (8) and Nick Whedbee; Orange, Bryse Wilson, Jon Evans (7) and Joe Vance. WP—Fuller (9-1); LP—Evans (1-1). Leading hitters—D.H. Conley, Bryant Packard 3-4 (2 2B), Aaron Martin 1-3 (1 RBI), Ryan Maness 1-4 (1 RBI), Matt Boyd 1-4 (2B, 2 RBI); Orange, Andrew Toney 2-4, Jon Evans 2-4, Brandon Wood 1-3 (1 HR, 2 RBI), Brad Debo 1-3 (1 RBI).
Records—D.H. Conley 26-2, Orange 27-3.