Gray's Creek, Cavs split CFVC baseball title
Gray's Creek earned a season split on the baseball diamond at Southern Lee Wednesday night, but the Bears also got a sweep at the same time.
Spoiling the Cavalier bid to win the Cape Fear Valley Conference championship outright, the Bears (16-4, 10-2) took the lead with two runs in the fifth and went on to a 5-3 victory to make the Bears and Cavaliers (19-5, 10-2) co-champions.
The sweep came when Gray's Creek won the coin toss in the press box after the final out, giving the Bears the No. 1 seed for the CFVC Tournament and with that spot, a bye through Thursday's first round to Friday's semifinal round.
The Cavaliers were relegated to a first-round game Thursday night against last-place Westover. Western Harnett is hosting Friday's semifinals and Monday's final.
Gray's Creek jumped on the Cavaliers for three runs before the Cavs recorded an out.
Leadoff hitter Gatlin Pate reached on a grounder which turned into an error by Cavalier shortstop Jared Kehagias. Ken McDowell followed with a single and Bear pitcher T.J. McDonald drilled a triple to the fence in left field to score Pate and McDowell. Garrett Johnson's grounder to short resulted in an error and an RBI, making it 3-0.
The Cavaliers, and starting pitcher Connor Gaines, stopped the Bear rally there and the Cavaliers took advantage of Bear errors to get right back in the game.
After the Cavs left two men on in the first, Gaines opened the second with a double and Christian Wenger reached on an error on a grounder by the third baseman. Gaines took third and Wenger hustled into second with no outs.
A missed suicide squeeze bunt led to a wild Bear throw down the left field line and the Cavs getting on the board. Wenger scored on a chopper to short by Kehagias for the second out of the frame. Trei Chalmers scored on the third Bear error of the inning, a dropped fly in right off the bat of Freddy McCollum.
Weather played a role in the sloppiness of the game. After Monday's and Tuesday's wet weather, and the game being rescheduled from Tuesday to Wednesday, the game on the last night of the CFVC regular season went on despite degrees of drizzle or rain for most of the evening.
The Bears put runners on second and third with no outs in the third inning. Gaines picked the Bear off of third for the first out and the Cavs kept it a 3-3 game when McCollum, in center, charged in to glove a line drive and doubled the runner off second.
The Cavalier offense though, didn't mount another serious threat against McDonald, who went the distance striking out 13 and allowed two hits, the last being the Gaines double in the second.
Wenger relieved Gaines starting the Gray's Creek fourth. The decisive Bear rally was in the fifth.
After a walk to McDowell and a single by McDonald starting the inning, Johnson, the Bear clean-up hitter, put down a bunt. Wenger fielded the bunt and threw late to third but Cullen Boyette snagged the throw and momentarily put a tag on McDowell as he thought the ball went by the Cavalier third baseman. Boyette dropped the ball and McDowell scrambled back to the bag. The call went to the Bears.
Now with the bases loaded and no out, and with Caleb Gaster coming on to replace Wenger on the mound, Collin Ford knocked in a run and a walk plated another Bear making it 5-3.
The call the Cavs wanted on the bunt wasn't the only odd call of the night. The Cavalier defense was awarded two double plays, one in the first inning and one in the fifth, for interference calls. The first was a Bear batter stepping out of the batter's box on a stolen base attempt and the second on a double play grounder and an illegal slide into second base.