Richland Northeast knew the opportunities to extend its season was becoming less promising with each baserunner stranded through the first five innings. The Cavaliers had left eight men on base in that time frame – including two each in both the fourth and fifth innings when they got runners in scoring position with one out but failed to push across a run.
Shannon Glover changed that with one swing of the bat in the sixth. His single scored Nick Gelting to tie it before Jake Mueller took advantage of J.L. Mann’s fourth error of the game to score in the winning run in a 4-3 victory Monday night in an elimination game in the Class 4A, District 3 baseball playoffs.
“I thought we had an opportunity to score a lot more runs than we did tonight. But if you can get the ones when it matters, we’ll take it,” Richland Northeast coach Thane Maness said. “Shannon did a great job in that at-bat.”
Richland Northeast (18-9) will travel to Rock Hill to face Northwestern on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The Cavaliers need two victories to advance past the district playoffs while the Trojans will need one.
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“Once you get that first loss, it’s just trying to survive to Wednesday and see what you can do once you there,” Maness said. “Northwestern is an extremely good team, and it will be a challenge for us. But I’m proud of what our kids have done. We’re looking forward to going up there Wednesday.”
Even though the Cavaliers scratched out three hits, they had base runners in every inning with the aid of four Patriot errors, four hit batters and two walks.
The game-winning rally began with two outs when Gelting and Mueller each reached base after being hit by pitches. Glover worked the count to 3-2 before lacing a single to right field that easily scored Gelting from second.
“I was thinking I had to do whatever it takes to get on base and get these two runs in,” Glover said. “It was frustrating leaving so many guys on base, but we had to keep a positive attitude and pump guys up.”
Mueller was running on the pitch. When he saw the ball come in over the catcher’s head, he never hesitated in sliding home with the winning run.
“Immediately when the ball was hit to the outfield and we were running on the 3-2 pitch, I rounded third and saw the throw was over the catcher’s head and nobody was on the plate,” Mueller said, “so figured we’d take that run.”
Maness said he wasn’t sure if he was going to send Mueller, but once he saw the high throw he felt it was worth the chance. Plus, he wasn’t sure Mueller looked at him.
“I wasn’t sending him until I saw the ball up,” Maness said. “Once I saw that, he was going, but he wasn’t looking at me anyway. He was gone.”
J.L. Mann (11-12) had taken a 3-2 lead with two runs in the fifth. A walk and single started the inning before Patrick Frick singled home a run. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third with one out, and the Cavaliers played the infield in. They got a ground ball to second but the throw home was wild, allowing the go-ahead run to score. Frick tried to score on the play as well, but was tagged out at the plate leaving it a one-run game.
Ryne Maness worked the first five innings and gave way to Mueller for the final two innings even though the right-hander pitched a complete game on Saturday. It didn’t seem to bother him, as he retired all six batters he faced with two strike outs and one ball hit out of the infield.
“He as throwing harder tonight than he did on Saturday,” Maness said. “It was huge for Ryne to gut it out for us and get through five innings.”
W: Jake Mueller (5-1). L: Will Faqua. Hitters: (JLM) Blake Brady 2-3.