CPL: HiToms drop playoff opener to RedWolves
High Point-Thomasville has played from behind all season long. They will have to do it again in the Coastal Plain League playoffs if a second round appearance is in their future.
Connor Sullivan's solo home run in the 11th inning sent Florence out of the Chair City with a 2-1 victory and a 1-0 cushion in the best-of-3 first round series. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) will be played in Florence Thursday and Friday.
“I expected the game to be close with one big hit changing the game,” said HiToms head coach Austin Love. “I really expected us to get that hit just because we have been the more offensive team all year as far as total bases and home runs.”
In a no-decision, starter Chase Cunningham did his part for a second consecutive game. He went nine innings, with the lone run given up coming in the fifth inning. Tyler Moore led off with a single and was bunted over to second. Two batters later Jordan Gore ripped a single into right field to put the RedWolves ahead 1-0.
Travis Burnette had been just as good on the rubber for Florence. He, too, had slight trouble in the fifth – an inning that the HiToms could have gotten so much more in.
Right fielder Austin Crutcher started the home half loudly with an opposite-field homer – his CPL best 12th of the year – to tie the game with one swing.
A trio of singles by Tripp Dunn, Ryan Hodge and Logan Taylor loaded the bases, as the Tommies were on the verge of creating some breathing room. All that came of the inning was a frustrated sigh.
Bradley Morton popped out to third base, then Burnette got Joey Havrilak to bounce into an inning-ending double play. An inning filled with promise turned into utter disappointment.
“We just hurt ourselves when we did not push a run across that one inning where we had the bases loaded and no outs,” Love said. “That's the difference in the game.”
The HiToms would not have another batter reach base the remainder of the game.
After the two teams went down in order during the 10th, Sullivan came up with nobody on and one out in the 11th. Phil Maton was in his second inning of relief for the HiToms and left a pitch over the outer part of the plate. Sullivan went with it, driving a ball the other way that just cleared the wall in left. It was only the seventh long ball hit all season by Florence, but it was the biggest one by far this season.
Recently tying the CPL record for saves in a season with 18, closer Michael Morrison began warming up in the bullpen. He struck out the first two batters and got a grounder to second for his record-breaking 19th save. More importantly, he put the RedWolves one win away from the semifinals.