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MOREHEAD CITY — The Coastal Plain League summer collegiate baseball postseason run for the Wilson Tobs ended one victory shy of an appearance in the Petitt Cup finals to declare the 2018 champion in Big Rock Stadium on Tuesday night.
A bases-loaded, no-out threat in the top of the ninth inning died a couple of runs short and the host Morehead City Marlins seized the Northeast Region title with a 4-2 victory.
Wilson, with a 23-24 record, exited as the North Division winner and the division’s top finisher in the second half of the season.
The Marlins, with the league’s second-best record of 37-14 and East Division kings, advanced into the best-of-three championship series, scheduled for Thursday and Friday, against West Division front-runner High Point-Thomasville, which ousted South Division champ and 2017 league champion Savannah,3-0, also on Tuesday night.
Coming off a 4-3 win against Peninsula for North Division supremacy on Sunday night, the Tobs, against the Marlins, were limited to three hits and no runs through eight innings by Morehead City pitchers Ocatvio Mirabal and Ashton Raines.
But in the top of the ninth, the Tobs opened with Shamoy Christopher and Drew Brooks each drawing a walk. Raines was relieved by Marlins right-handed closer Brandon Marklund.
Wilson pinch hitter Nick Smith beat out a bunt to load the bases. The deficit became 4-1 when Matt McCourt was hit by a Marklund pitch. The call was hotly disputed by Marlins head coach Jesse Lancaster, who was ultimately ejected for his trouble.
However, the next Tobs batter, Brenton Doyle, lifted a soft liner straight at Marlins second baseman Colin Allman, who snared it and flipped the ball to shortstop Alex Pimentel to double up Smith at second.
The Tobs plated their second run on a passed ball before Marklund ended Wilson’s season by striking out Ben Faso.
The Tobs lost three of four 2018 meetings against the Marlins with one rained out.
Marklund posted his sixth save and preserved Mirabal’s sixth win without a loss.
Mirabal, a senior left-hander from King (Tennessee) University, limited the Tobs to two hits through 6 1/3 innings. He issued five walks and struck out even. Raines struck out all five batters he retired.
The Tobs also loaded the bases with one out in the top of the seventh when Mirabal hit the first two batters, Kevin McGowan and Christopher. After Drew Brooks laid down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners over, third baseman Colby Warren, a rising sophomore from Barton College, drew a base on balls.
That would be the last batter for Mirabal (6-0) as Raines came in and fanned McCourt and Doyle to quell the threat.
The Tobs could not capitalize on nine walks and the three Morehead City pitchers registered 13 strikeouts.
Wilson starting right-hander Sean Deely, a junior from Wilmington (Delaware) College, suffered his second loss against one win, lasting four innings and yielding three runs. Gary Watkins, Danny Cody and Luis Acosta followed Deely to the mound.
The Marlins plated two unearned runs in the second inning. Pimentel rapped a two-run single after a one-out error by McCourt. Joe Mason slugged a two-out, solo home run to left field in the third.
Morehead City’s fourth run came in the sixth. With Brendon Dougherty in a rundown between first and second bases, Allman darted from third base and scored.
The Marlins finished with five hits, while the Tobs got a hit each from Smith, Faso, Brooks and J.T. Stone. Wilson stranded 10 base runners to three by Morehead City.
The Tobs, directed by head coach Bryan Hill, showed mark improvement from a dismal 2017 that saw a franchise-worst record 18-37, but are still without a CPL championship in the league’s 22-year history.