Town Crier Sports Staff
Steven Emerich's infield single in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in the winning run to help East Poinsett County rally past Manila 5-4 in 3A-3 conference baseball action Monday afternoon at Lepanto.
Centerfielder Brett Hardin started the game winning rally with a base on balls. Catcher Lando Bass followed with a hard hit ball up the middle that took a bad hop over the shoulder of shortstop Jace Elkins. Hardin, who was running on the play, scampered all the way around the bases to score the tying run, and on the throw to the plate, Brian Branch, who was pinch running for Bass, rambled down to second.
Losing pitcher Chad Nunnally got Chris Carter to ground out to second, but Branch moved up to third on the play. Manila played the infield in, but Emerich's slow roller allowed Branch to score from third, setting off a wild celebration for the Warriors, who remain unbeaten in conference play with a perfect 5-0 mark.
"We had a ball hit up the middle in the last inning that I thought we could have made a play on," said Manila Coach Steve Milligan. "Unfortunately our regular shortstop didn't play because of disciplinary reasons, which makes it difficult to set your defense. This was a tough loss to take."
Manila got on the board in the first inning when starting pitcher Michael Shedd drilled an RBI double, scoring Elkins, who led the game off with a walk. One out later, Ross Malloy slammed a two run homer over the centerfield fence, giving the Lions an early 3-0 lead.
EPC got back in the game in the bottom of the third, thanks to a two-out throwing error that allowed two runs to score. Matt Powell started the Warrior rally with a single to right, and with two outs, Hardin ripped a ground rule double over the left centerfield fence, putting runners at second and third. Bass walked to load the bases, brining Carter to the plate. Carter hit a sharp ground ball to Elkins at short, but the throw to first was wide, allowing two runners to cross the plate, cutting the Lion lead to 3-2.
Manila got one of the runs back in the top of the fourth when Tray Malone rapped a clutch two-out RBI single up the middle, scoring Kyle Evans, who had singled earlier in the inning, putting the Lions up 4-2.
EPC threatened in the bottom of the fourth when designated hitter Jay Meeks drew a one-out walk. Shedd enticed Kyle Cline to pop out to third for the second out, but Powell hammered a double to left field, putting the tying runs in scoring position. Manila escaped the inning when rightfielder Trey McCormick made a nice running catch of Justin Parnell's deep drive to right field, keeping the score at 4-2.
The Warriors pulled within one in the bottom of the sixth, scoring a run on Powell's RBI grounder off Nunnally to cut the Lion lead to 4-3, setting up the game's frantic finish.
Shedd pitched the first four innings for the Lions, giving up two runs, both unearned. The righthander scattered three hits, struck out four, and walked three batters. Shedd also had a single to go along with his RBI double. Nunnally, who came on in relief in the fifth, went 2 and 2/3 innings, allowing three runs on two hits. Nunnally fanned two, but surrendered four base on balls and had a wild pitch. Nunnally also had a single in the game.
"Ross Malloy had a nice hit today and we made some really good catches in the outfield," added Milligan.
Parnell picked up the win, going the distance for the Warriors, allowing five hits and four runs, all earned. The senior righthander struck out five and walked four.
"I was really proud of my kids today," said EPC Coach Brian Weathers. "We played a full seven innings and played hard all the way to the end. Justin Parnell did a great job on the mound for us. Manila got three runs on him early but he kept his composure. He kept us in there the rest of the way and gave us a chance. We hit the ball well today. We had a couple of hard hit balls in the gap, but Manila's outfielders made some great plays. We were fortunate to get the bounce in the seventh inning, so I guess it's better late than never. I really think these are the two best teams in our league that played today."