Smoky Mountain’s baseball season came to an end May 14 with a 5-2 loss at West Lincoln in the third round of the state 2-A playoffs.
The loss didn’t come without controversy.
The 28th-seeded Mustangs (13-10) had runners at the corners and the tying run at the plate with no outs in the seventh inning. After a strikeout, Emmitt Baldwin hit a grounder to shortstop for a force out at second. Baldwin beat the throw to first, which would have scored a run and kept the tying run at the plate with two out.
However, the base umpire ruled Dawson Karup, who was on first, interfered with the second baseman and awarded a game-ending double play to the 13th-seeded Rebels.
“That’s one of those things you hardly ever see called in a game,” Coach Jeremy Ellenburg said. “It was a tough way for the season to end, especially with the way these guys really stepped up at playoff time.”
There appeared to be multiple ejections during the ensuing argument. In the official report, the only ejections were for James Hinson and Jacob Frizzell. Since they are both seniors, there will be no punishment from the N.C. High School Athletic Association.
West’s Chris Moxley pitched a complete game and gave up no runs after the first inning. He allowed eight hits, a walk and a hit batsman and struck out seven.
Brandon Lail went three of four at the plate for the Rebels, and Brett Mason was two of two.
SM scored two runs in the first inning. Baldwin and Hinson singled, and Frizzell had an RBI single. Jameson Madden followed with a sacrifice fly.
“We got off to a great start,” Ellenburg said. “I knew Moxley was a good pitcher. He throws a lot of breaking balls. We were able to jump on them real quick.”
The Rebels tied it on Dylan Burkey’s two-run homer in the bottom of the first.
“When they came in and hit the two-run homer, it took the wind out of our sails,” Ellenburg said. “It shouldn’t have because it was a tie game. We stopped hitting and stopped putting things together. Against a team like that, you have to keep the pressure on.”
West added an insurance run on Mason’s sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Grayson Hall (4-4), who pitched six innings of relief, took the loss. He gave up two earned runs and eight hits. He walked one, hit a batter and struck out two.
“Grayson came on and did a phenomenal job,” Ellenburg said. “We just didn’t do what we needed to do to back him up offensively or defensively.”
Frizzell was three of three at the plate, and Karup was two of two.
“We didn’t have the season we wanted to have, but they really stepped up in the playoffs and turned the season around,” the coach said. “For them to play like they did in the first two rounds and for it to end like it did was a hard pill to swallow.”
The 28th-seeded Mustangs beat fifth-seeded Mount Pleasant and 12th-seeded North Surry on the road in the first two rounds.
“I was proud of the way they fought in the playoffs,” Ellenburg said. “On paper we had no business being there. We were the 28th seed, but when it comes playoff time anything can happen.”