Prep Baseball Playoffs: Ledford sees season end at Southwestern Randolph
Ledford was searching for any kind of break they could get Tuesday evening at Southwestern Randolph High School. One never fell their way.
A Mid-Piedmont Conference rival of the Panthers, the Cougars had a couple key plays go their way and swung the bat extremely well. Doing all of their damage in just two innings, SWR came away with a dominating 8-2 win to reach the fourth round. Ledford ends the year at 14-10.
“Give them credit. They have been swinging a hot bat lately and they kept it up tonight,” said LHS assistant coach David Thomas. “They hit the ball where we weren't, putting it in the gaps and getting runs.”
The first bad break for the Panthers came in the top of the first inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Chaz Shields sent a line drive to center that was diving in front of Bryson Cranford in center. Breaking from second on the play, Connor Peacock was rounding third and would have scored easily. Only Cranford snatched the ball out of the air before it hit the ground, tossing to second to double up Peacock for the third out.
Southwestern Randolph made it hurt even more in their first trip to the plate.
Leadoff hitter Reece Daniel rocketed a 2-1 pitch to left for a solo home run. Four batters later Dawson Cagle brought home two more with a booming double to the gap in right-center. He later scored on a sacrifice fly, putting the Cougars ahead 4-0 early on.
The Ledford coaching staff encouraged the team to stay positive and that there was plenty of baseball left to be played. They settled down next trip at the plate and got a run back. Tebo White found the gap for a one-out double. His brother Bubba was called out on a close play at first on a grounder to short, but it was enough to get Tebo to third. Shane Werran singled to bring in the run before being thrown out attempting to steal second.
After the tough start, Michael Horrell settled in on the hill for LHS and matched Cody Wright pitch for pitch through the next three innings.
Over the course of those three frames, Ledford had two more breaks not go their way that could have swung momentum. With runners on the corners in the third, Austin Stilley lined a ball down the line in right that would have gone for a double, but it curved foul. He would strike out, and Shields popped up to second base for the third out.
In the fifth, Jonathan Turner hit a ball over the fence in left with a runner on, but it went foul as well. He struck out and the Panthers could do nothing more in the inning.
“We hit the ball hard and were waiting for a break,” said Thomas. “We could not get that one hit that we needed. Maybe if we could have gotten one of those to fall early, it would change things. The guys battled. It is tough.”
The Cougars put the game away with a strong offensive fifth. Cagle and Cranford collected RBI hits to chase Horrell from the game. Wright helped himself with a two-RBI single to center that put the Cougars up 8-1 with Ledford having just six outs left.
LHS put another run on the board in seventh, but it would be the final run scored for the season.
“Mike brought his stuff, but 1-9 they are a good hitting lineup,” said Thomas. “They squared it up and hit it hard. All the credit to them.”
The Cougars (14-10) will meet South Johnston on the road Friday evening.
“They have played three unbelievable games and nobody thought we were going to be here,” said SWR coach Tyler Clapp. “I am proud of this team.”
Notes: Tebo White and Werran had a pair of hits each to lead the Panthers … Cagle wound up with three RBIs for the night … Wright was pulled with one on and no outs in the seventh inning.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.