Halifax Academy upsets Crusaders from states
Just three days after the highlight of the season for Grace Christian's baseball team, the season came to a sudden end with Halifax Academy rallying from a 7-0 deficit for a 10-8 victory knocking the Crusaders out of the NCISAA 1A State Tournament in the tourney's first round Tuesday afternoon.
No. 12-seeded Halifax (9-10) scored four runs in the fifth, three in the sixth and three in the seventh to upset No. 5 Grace Christian (17-10). The Crusaders tried five different pitchers, including starter Braxton Toro briefly returning to the mound in the same frame he was initially subbed for, but couldn't stem the tide once it shifted to the guests from Roanoke Rapids.
The Crusaders tallied 39 runs in their three CCC Tournament victories, which was good for their second straight championship. The Crusader bats had posted eight runs or more in each of their last six games, all wins.
Scoring runs was no problem early on versus Halifax, either. From two out and no one on in the Crusader first, Aaron Ayers and Micah Welborn kept the line moving with walks. Nathan Holt singled sharply into center bringing Ayers in. Shane Farnsworth followed with a drive off the fence in left-center field for an RBI double.
Toro, the Crusader starter on the mound, breezed through the first two innings.
The Crusaders did more damage in the second. Iden Swartzentruber drew a leadoff walk and eventually scored on a Viking throwing error on a grounder to third.
A few batters later, Ayers launched a high fly carrying over the fence inside the left field foul line for a three-run home run and a 6-0 Grace lead.
A sharp double play, with shortstop Caleb Welborn fielding a hot grounder, stepping on second and going to first, helped Toro get out of a two-on, no-out situation in the Viking third. Toro got two strikeouts in a three-up, three-down fourth.
With the score 7-0 in the Halifax fifth, the Vikings got going without the need of a hit.
Toro walked two batters with one out and was relieved by Caleb Welborn.
The Vikings drew two walks and two hit batsmen in the third-of-an-inning Welborn pitched. Crusader head coach Jeff Ayers brought Toro back from shortstop to the mound. He walked a batter, then Paul Bordelon came on to pitch and got the third out, leaving the Crusaders leading 7-4.
The momentum, if not the lead, had swung for good. Now facing Aaron Ayers on the mound in the sixth, the Vikings added three base hits to their attack and tied the game, 7-7.
In the sixth, with Grace Christian still leading by a run, Jeff Ayers was ejected for arguing a fair-foul call which could've been the third out of the inning. A Viking hitter tapped a swinging bunt wide of the third base line. The ball was spinning toward the line and, with the Viking hitter not making his way to first, was picked up and thrown to first, but the call was a foul ball.
The Viking batter singled and wound up scoring on a wild pitch for a 7-7 score.
The Crusaders regrouped to regain the lead. Holt started the inning with a single, then a stolen base and fielder's choice grounder moved him around the paths. Bordelon hit a hard chopper by the second baseman for the RBI.
Micah Welborn relieved Aaron Ayers starting the Viking seventh but four Viking singles, plus a walk and two Crusader errors in the inning, added up to a 10-8 lead.
Toro tripled with one out in the bottom of the seventh but the Crusaders couldn't threaten more.
Luke Blackman took up the Viking pitching after the Ayers homer in the second. He went the last 5.2 innings allowing seven hits and two runs with eight strikeouts.
Holt had a 3 for 4 day at the plate and scored two runs for the Crusaders. Farnsworth had an RBI double in the first and an RBI single in the fourth.
Halifax Academy advances to the quarterfinal round and a contest at No. 4 Lawrence Academy.