Fuquay ends Yellow Jackets’ season
Lee County’s baseball finale, and the last time a Yellow Jacket squad will host a Tri-Nine contest for the foreseeable future, ended with Tri-Nine champ Fuquay-Varina topping the Yellow Jackets 9-6, keeping Lee County from keeping its season going for at least one more game, Tuesday afternoon.
Lee County (9-14, 6-10) would’ve tied Apex for fifth place with a victory, and would’ve forced a tiebreaking playoff game for a spot into the 4A state tournament. The Bengals, already having clinched the conference title, scored seven runs to take a 9-1 lead in the fifth. Lee County rallied for five runs in the home half of the inning but didn’t keep the comeback going in the sixth or seventh.
“We played well at the end, for about the last three weeks I thought the guys had been playing well to get us in this position,” said Lee County head coach Charlie Spivey. A 3-2 stretch in conference games put the Jackets with a chance to keep their season going.
Tuesday’s game was rained out on March 1, started on April 16 until the lights malfunctioned at Lee County’s field and was postponed from Monday to Tuesday.
The game resumed from when daylight ran out three weeks ago, with a 0-0 score in the bottom of the first and an 0-1 count on Jacket leadoff hitter Brandon O’Quinn.O’Quinn will still go down as the Jacket starting pitcher, as he held the Bengals in the first. Chase Arrington started the Fuquay second.
With a pair of walks and a wild pitch, the Bengals had runners on the corners and no outs in the second. The Jackets picked the Bengal runner off third for one out, then got two grounders to retire the side.
The Jackets edged in front in their half of the second. Arrington reached on an error, then with Ben Grossfuss courtesy-running on third and two outs, Nolan Groce chopped an infield single to plate Grossfuss.
The Bengals took the lead with two in the fourth, without the need of a hit and taking advantage of a walk, a wild pitch, an error, which could’ve been the third out leaving Lee in front but instead tied the game, then another wild pitch letting the Bengals make it 2-1.
The first seven Bengals reached base, via singles or walks, and all seven came around to score in the Fuquay-Varina fifth. The big blow, and as it turned out, the decisive margin, was D.J. Burt’s two-out, three-run double making it 9-1.
The Jackets fought back within striking distance. With five walks keeping the Jacket order moving, Lee County had two runs up in the fifth before Groce, with the bases loaded and two outs, drilled a shot to deep left for a three-RBI double.
The Jackets, with a Bengal error and a hit batter, got the tying run to the plate with two outs in the seventh but that was all they managed.
Fuquay-Varina, with an eye to the first round of states on Friday, used five pitchers and no more than two innings of work per pitcher.
Spivey said Lee County’s last campaign as a 4A team, and in the Tri-Nine, was never a motivating factor.
“I never talked about it much,” he said, “in fact, I didn’t really think about it much until you mentioned it.”
Spivey said, as a coach, he’ll miss the relationships and “camaraderie” within the league.
“I’ve really enjoyed being in this conference all these years. There’s no doubt in my mind this is the best baseball league in the state,” he said.
More importantly for this season’s team of Jackets though, Spivey appreciates their work, especially by the senior class.
“You feel for the seniors because it’s the last time they’ll put on a uniform,” he said. “This senior class has always had a lot of commitment to the program.”
The Yellow Jacket underclassmen will get the opportunity to be the first Jackets to play in 3A, in the Cape Fear Valley Conference and against Southern Lee as a conference rival.