ROCKINGHAM — With a one-run lead heading into the top of the fifth inning, Rockingham Mustang coach Danny Lampley was feeling good about his team’s chances.
All of those good feelings went flying out the window.
Western Branch Gold scored two times in the fifth, added another three in the sixth and then fought off a Rockingham rally to hold on for an 8-6 win Wednesday night at Browder Park.
“We had our chances,” Lampley said. “They had good pitchers. They helped us some and we helped them some.”
Trailing 8-4 in the bottom of the sixth, Rockingham started to chip away at the lead against Western Branch Gold’s top pitcher, Harrison Didawick. Donavan Gadson was hit by a pitch to begin the rally. Pinch hitter Tyler Mabe walked. Matthew Walker grounded into a fielder’s choice as Western Branch Gold third baseman tagged Gadson for the first out. Trey Way was also hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Cameron Way walked to force in Mabe. After Didawick struck out J.D. Lampley for the second out, Walker raced home on a wild pitch to cut the lead to 8-6. On the play, Trey Way and Cameron Way advanced to third and second. Didawick settled down and struck out Colin Wheeler to end the game.
“We didn’t get the timely hits at the plate,” Lampley said. “We had our 3-4-5 hitters up in that situation. We didn’t execute”
Rockingham jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second all without getting the ball out of the infield. Wheeler was hit by a pitch to open the frame. Hunter Hancock and Tate Fann followed with walks to load the bases and chase Western Branch Gold starting pitcher Jackson Tone.
Velasquez walked Gadson to push Wheeler across with the game’s first run. Ashton Phifer hit a grounder to third and Tone’s throw to first was in the dirt for an error as Hancock scored. Walker hit into a fielder’s choice as Phifer was forced at second, but Fann raced home with the final run of the inning.
Western Branch Gold tied it with three in the third. Brodie Phillips and Velasquez recorded RBI-singles in the inning and Aiden Conway added a run-scoring ground out to short.
The loss sent Rockingham into the losers bracket, while Western Branch Gold advanced to face West Raleigh Red.
Reach sports editor Shawn Stinson at 910-817-2671 or on Twitter @scgolfer.