Three weeks ago, Pelion had its way with Buford in a Sandlapper spring break tournament game, breezing to a 9-1 win.
It was a different story Saturday in the second round of the Class 2A, District 3 tournament. The Yellow Jackets from Lancaster County advanced to the championship round on Wednesday with a 9-4 win.
Pelion (16-8) is facing an elimination game at home on Monday.
Buford staff ace Evan Flynn earned a complete game win.
“We threw junior varsity kid against them because I figured we’d see Pelion in the playoffs, and I didn’t what to show them too much,” Jackets coach Eric Funderburk said.
“Of course, we wanted to be at full strength in this one. Evan had to step up for us when our No. 1 went down early in the season, and he’s battled like this all season.”
Pelion stranded eight baserunners. The Panthers, down 8-0, scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth but left the bases full.
Flynn retired the Panthers in order in the seventh inning with the final two outs via strikeouts.
“We kept scratching, but in the end we dug too big a hole for ourselves early,” Pelion coach Barry Fogle said. “We got guys on base, but we couldn’t find a way to get them home. If we could have broken the ice early it might have been a different story, but that’s baseball.”
The Panthers used three pitchers and face the prospect of having to win three games next week, two at Buford in the finals.
Buford jumped on Pelion starter Tyler Poole for four runs in the top of the first. The Yellow Jackets took advantage of three hits, one walk, one hit batsman, one sacrifice and one Pelion error to take the early lead. The big blow was a two-run double by Austin Pate.
Leadoff man Troy Cunningham went 3-for-4 with three runs scored. Flynn had two hits and three RBIs.
Pelion got on the board when Andrew Kneece and Zack Hawkins drew back-to-back, bases-loaded walks. Poole followed with a run-scoring infield hit. Kneece then raced home on a passed ball. But Flynn quelled the rally by retiring Poole on a called third strike.