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CHARLOTTE — The Wilson City Little League All-Stars continue to stay alive on “High” drama at the North Carolina Little League Baseball Ages 9-10 Tournament.
Landon High, who had the big hit and earned the save in Tuesday’s win against Lake Norman, got a bases-loaded strikeout to finish off Wilson’s 7-4 defeat of Winston-Salem National on Wednesday night at Keith Field. That capped a pressure-packed last two innings in which Winston-Salem threatened to erase what had been a 7-1 Wilson lead after 5 1/2 innings.
The win, which avenged Wilson’s only loss — a 3-0 shutout by WSN on Sunday — sends Wilson into the championship bracket against unbeaten Greenville Tar Heel. The first game is Thursday at 7 p.m. and the final game, if Wilson wins Thursday, will be Friday night at 7.
Wilson, of which the majority of the roster is seeking its third straight age-group state championship, reversed a 1-0 deficit with five runs in the top of the fourth inning. Stone Massey reached first to lead off the inning and scooted to second and third on wild pitches. With one out, diminutive Charlie Scott fouled off several pitches — including one that was dropped by the WSN catcher — before lacing a run-scoring single to right-center field to bring in Massey with the tying run.
The next batter, Connor Lewis, walked before Angel Saldana dinked a single just over the Winston-Salem first baseman’s head to load the bases. Pinch hitter Jake Joyner then ripped a grounder at the WSN second baseman, who snagged it but his throw home was errant, allowing two more runs to score for Wilson.
Wilson added two more runs on a wild pitch and a double steal to go up 5-1.
In the top of the fifth, Josef Popowitch drilled a two-out double to score Scott and Lewis for a 7-1 Wilson lead. Winston-Salem got one run back in the bottom of the fifth on a bases-loaded wild pitch but Scott retired the last batter on a fly ball to Lewis in center field.
Winston-Salem threatened again in the sixth, scoring another run, before High nailed down the victory with his second save in as many nights.
Wilson weathered a three-run gut punch from Lake Norman in the bottom of the first inning to rally in the final two innings to post a 6-3 victory Tuesday night in an elimination game.
High’s two-out, bases-loaded triple broke a 3-3 tie in the top of the sixth and District 6 champion Wilson — coached by Eric Lewis and assistants Zack Wiggins and Dewey Scott — hung on to survive its second straight elimination game.
“Once again, it was a reminder to everyone what heart this group of young men has,” Dewey Scott said. “The word ‘grit’ was used by a Lake Norman parent to one of our parents after the game when describing our team, and I can’t think of a more appropriate word to describe that ‘it factor’ this team has.”
Lake Norman, which lost 4-3 to Wilson in the first round Saturday, greeted WCLL starting pitcher Camden Efird with three runs on four hits and a walk. Efird didn’t survive the first inning as Massey was summoned for the final out. But Massey remained on the mound until the sixth inning, going 4 2/3 innings of shutout work. He had plenty of defensive help behind him.
Massey started a 1-6-3 double play to shortstop Scott and then High at first to end the second inning. Lake Norman loaded the bases with one out in the third but Scott knocked down a grounder up the middle and fired to Efird, who had moved to catcher, for the force out. Then center fielder Lewis came up throwing on what appeared to be a Lake Norman single but turned into the third out on a force play at second.
In the fourth inning, Lake Norman threatened again with a runner on third and two out. Wilson second baseman Mack Wiggins made a diving stop on a ground ball and threw the runner out at first to quell the threat.
Wilson finally broke through offensively in the fifth with three runs to tie the score, setting up the sixth-inning fireworks. Tanner Pierce got the rally started with a lead-off walk. He took second base on a perfect sacrifice bunt by Peyton Gardner before back-to-back bases on balls to Wiggins and Efird loaded the bases.
Massey, who struck out the side in the bottom of the fifth, was poised to deliver the crushing blow but, after a pitching change during his at-bat, fanned for the second out. Into the batter’s box stepped High, who crushed the first pitch he saw to deep left-center field, emptying the bases.
After Massey gave up a one-out bloop single down the right field line, High was summoned to the mound. He retired the first batter on a ground ball but the next Lake Norman batter sent the ball into the right-center field gap where Lewis, who had moved over a few steps before the pitch, gloved it on the run for the final out.
High, who had an RBI single in the fifth, drove in four runs while Lewis and Saldana also had two hits each. Wiggins and Popowitch each scored a pair of runs.