They fell in the first game 6-3 in extra innings. The loss was painful because Zach McGrady stood at third base in the bottom of the seventh, before a failed suicide squeeze sent the game to extra innings. Fayetteville head coach Morris Phillips said he sent McGrady because McGrady asked for the green light.
“It was a play to win the game,” Phillips said. “We had their pitcher in the windup and he was very slow with it and we had our speedy guy on. He looked at me and said ‘Hey, I want to do it.’”
The umpire called McGrady out on a close play at the plate.
With what would have been the winning run called out to end the seventh inning, the Wolves lost momentum as the game headed to extra innings.
Austin Patterson led off the eighth inning with a single to center field. McGrady struck out Mitchell Anderson. Harrison Boozer hit a deep shot to left field that the umpire called a foul ball, although Shades Mountain contested it was a home run. Boozer reached first base after being hit by a pitch. There was some tension after the play when Boozer stared down McGrady before taking his base. Mikey Rogers hit a single to center field to load the bases. Tanner Holt took a walk to bring in a run. Billy Parker hit a single to right field to score two more runs to make the score 6-3.
In the bottom of the eighth, Levi Blanchard hit an infield single and Mason Vick singled to center field to put two runners on base with one out. But Weston Brassell grounded out to third baseman and Tyler Pennington struck out to end the game.
“It was a tough loss for us,” Phillips said. “If we don’t make a couple of mistakes we made to keep them from scoring, we win the game. Zach McGrady pitched a heck of a game, pitched a really good game. I’m real proud of him for that.”
McGrady pitched the full eight innings, while striking out 11 batters.
“This group of seniors is going out with a lot of wins under their belt,” Phillips said. “I know they had three years there where we won over 20 wins in a row and then this year. They’re going out with nearly 90 wins in four years. For McGrady, who played on varsity his eighth grade year, he’s going out with over 100 wins. So, I’m real proud of him for that.”
In the second game, the two teams were locked in a closely contested match until things unraveled for the Wolves in the bottom of the fifth inning.
The Wolves got on the board first with two runs in the top of the first inning. The Golden Eagles answered with three runs in the bottom half of the inning. One of the runs resulted from a throwing error.
Fayetteville scored a run in the top of the third to tie it at 3-3.
Zach McGrady led off the fourth inning with a triple and came around to score on a grounder to shortstop by Slade Scroggins.
Shades Mountain evened the score at 4-4 in the bottom of the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Boozer hit a home run to left field to give Shades Mountain a 5-4 lead. Five combined walks between pitchers Austin Brasher and Zane McGrady brought in three more runs.
Brasher led off the sixth with a grounder to third base, but he was safe at first base when Boozer’s foot came off the bag. Brasher proceeded to steal second base and advanced to third base on a Zach McGrady groundout. Brasher came around to score on a wild pitch to make it 8-5. Two fielding errors by third baseman Levi Blanchard resulted in two runs coming in to score.
“We struggled,” Phillips said. “We struggled on the mound trying to find the strike zone and that hurt us. Again, little errors here and there, throwing the ball away, just missing some routine plays; the same thing that’s hurt us all year is what got us again tonight.”
Byran Osbourn replaced Blanchard, but the Golden Eagles kept hitting pitches to third base, four consecutively. Osbourn turned the last two for outs and the team got out of the inning.
They were unable to muster any more offense, with a strikeout, a pop out, a strikeout to end the game.
“We are very, very blessed to be in the playoffs,” Phillips said. “We’re very blessed to be in the second round. There’s a lot of teams that are sitting at home that would have loved to have played last weekend and this week. The overall season: I’m very proud of our guys. We battled. Defensively, we’ve got a lot of things to work on before next year. Offensively, we hit the ball well I thought. We’re only losing two seniors this year. We’ve got guys coming back next year that are going to push each other for starting positions, so I’m looking forward to next season as well.”