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From a tense clash of two teams strongly in tune with the magnitude of the evening’s outcome, a stirring comeback, a handful of controversial calls, an ejection and, finally, participants and fans suddenly being left in the dark evolved a game 5 to declare the second Area I Eastern Division American Legion baseball semifinal winner.
Favored as the No. 1 seed but fighting to stave off elimination in the best-of-five series, visiting Wayne County capitalized on a pair of costly Wilson Post 13 mistakes in the top of the eighth inning to seize a 5-3, extra-inning victory and send the decisive game back to the Goldsboro High diamond at 7 p.m. Friday.
Seeded No. 4, Post 13 erased a 3-1 deficit with two runs in the bottom of the seventh inning and forced the extra inning after being a base hit or a break away from stunning the top-seeded team that twice defeated it during the regular season and in the opening game of the playoffs.
The fan-arousing controversy began in the fifth inning. Post 11 scored a fourth run on an errant throw from second base in attempting to turn a double play. However, Wilson head coach Noah Edens protested that the Wayne County base runner at second slid into the Wilson fielder. The base umpire changed his ruling and ended the inning with a double play — negating the run.
In the bottom of the seventh with Wilson trailing 3-2, Post 13 pinch hitter Jaelynn Melton attempted to score from third base after a lackadaisical throw from the outfield. The throw was in time, but Wayne catcher Case Kermode, in the collision, failed to hang onto the baseball. Post 11 protested Kermode lost possession of the baseball because he bumped into the umpire. Melton was ruled safe to tie the score at 3-3.
Then, in the top of the eighth, Post 13, on Will Uzzell’s grounder, attempted to force Aryc Chrisman at second base. Chrisman was called safe on a bang-bang play. Edens vehemently protested the call and was eventually ejected.
Afterwards, Post 13 Athletic Officer Bob Walston reported he would not know until Friday morning if Edens would be eligible to coach the team Friday.
Finally, seconds after the game concluded, the wrong lights switch was flipped, leaving the baseball field in darkness for several minutes.
Players from both teams fumed, but Post 11 departed relieved with the opportunity to play again.
“It was intense,” Wilson first baseman Silas Gonzalez described the proceedings. “There was a lot at stake — especially after last night (Wilson’s 6-5 win on Wednesday).
“We made a great comeback and had it in our hands. We kind of let it go. We had Nos. 3, 4 and 5 (hitters in the lineup) coming up (in the bottom of the eighth). In the end, we sort of gave it up.”
Mistakes and controversy negated a mound duel between right-handers Tyler Wells of Post 13 and Jack Casbarro of Wayne County.
After being hit hard for two runs in the first, Wells yielded but one run the next six innings. Casbarro, who struck out six the first three innings, lasted 6 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits and three runs (two earned).
“Their pitcher did a great job,” Edens said of Casbarro. “He pitched us a little different, commiting to pitch us inside.
“Tyler was a little rusty; he missed a start or two for one reason or another. “He gave us seven innings on just 88 pitches.”
But right-hander T.J. Harris relieved in the eighth and issued walks to the only batters he faced. The misplayed fielder’s choice loaded the bases.
With one out, Post 11 plated the go-ahead run against right-hander Parker Garris. Post 13 appeared to force Christian Yarbrough at the plate, but catcher Tyler Sherrod lost possession of the baseball when he attempted to tag Yarbrough. Ayrc Chrisman, who also walked, tallied the final run on a passed ball.
Post 11 reliever Chance Howard, who squelched Wilson’s seventh-inning uprising with a pair of strikeouts, pitched around a one-out walk in the bottom of the eighth to claim the game four win and even the series at 2-2.
“We didn’t have a lot of opportunities,” Edens noted. “But in the other games, we took advantage of our opportunities; tonight, we didn’t.”
However, the upset state of his players pleased Edens.
“They should be angry when things don’t go right,” he reasoned. “They should want things to go right. Right now, I think they are ready to go tonight. They feel like they let one get away.”
Gonzales, who batted 3 for 3, agreed.
“We’re looking at tomorrow,” he declared. “Tonight is behind us and we’re going to come out firing. We are going to be a little aggressive and a little mad. We are coming out to win for sure.”
Score by innings:
Wayne County 200 010 02 — 5
Wilson 010 000 20 — 3
WP-Chance Howard 1 2/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 SO. LP-T.J. Harris 0 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wayne County: Blake Gipson 2-5, 2B, 2 RBI; Case Kermode 2-4, 2B. RBI; Jack Casbarro 1-3, R; Christian Yarbrough 1-3, RBI, Will Uzzell 1-3; Wilson: Silas Gonzales 3-3, R; Jaelynn Melton 1-1, R; Dom Gaetano 1-3, RBI; Parker Garris 1-2, R.