The Midway Raiders took game one of the three game series against South Granville High School in the NCHSAA 2A State Playoffs’ Eastern Championship on Wednesday night by defeating the visiting Viking team, 6-5.
It was a game that seemed to belong to Midway a couple of times. But both teams kept battling back and seemed to have an answer for each other.
The game began with Dylan Hardison cruising through the top half of the first, while striking out a pair for MHS. In the bottom of the first, the Raiders earned their first run on a single by Kyle Hawley that scored center-fielder, Matt Barefoot.
Midway would score again in the bottom of the second after Hardison once again cruised through the Viking order. This time, it was an RBI walk by Kyle Hawley with the bases loaded. Midway led 2-0 after two.
Then came the third inning.
With one on and two outs in the third, a big, high, pop up was hit in foul territory just in front of the Midway dugout. Three Raider defense-men were in the area, but a lack of communication allowed the ball to drop harmlessly to the ground. This gave South Granville at least another pitch to score on. And they did. An RBI triple was ripped down the right-field line to score a run, followed by a wild-pitch that tied the game up. Both runs could have, and should have been averted. “I thought that the foul ball that we didn’t get was going to hurt a lot,” said Midway’s head coach Jason Fussell. “Not that it didn’t, but fortunately we were able to fight back.”
Each team would strand base-runners seemingly every inning in between the bottom of the third and the top of the sixth. With two outs and two on in the bottom of the sixth, Midway’s sophomore DH Wesley Johnson got a clutchwhack to center-field, scoring Drake Strickland. Strickland was in scoring position after a walk and a nice bunt by Jake Clark. One batter later, Kyle Hawley earned his third RBI of the evening, scoring Matt Barefoot to give Midway the 4-2 lead. The next batter, Tyler Pope, drove in a pair after hitting the ball to third base and reaching on an error. This would be the last of the Raider rally, but the damage was done, giving Midway a comfortable, 6-2 cushion, needing only three outs to take a 1-0 lead in the series.
That comfort didn’t last long in the Raider dugout. The first South Granville batter of the seventh doubled to center-field. A batter later popped out to Jake Clark at second base. An RBI single later made it a 6-3 game. The next batter was walked by Midway, then a base hit and a MHS error allowed two runs to score. It was a one run game with two outs. Midway intentionally walked the next batter, and then unintentionally walked the next. The bases were now loaded with two outs and the tying run just ninety feet away at third base.
Midway’s Dylan Hardison threw the first two pitches of the at bat in the zone. One was taken, one was hacked and missed. The next four pitcher were fouled out of play. The next, was a swing and a miss, as once again, the Raiders had avoided a disasterous scenario.
“I thought it said a lot about our guys and how tough they were tonight. We had some underclassmen make some huge plays for us. Wesley Johnson’s hit was obviously big for us and I thought Landon Dorman made some great plays for us tonight and swung the bat well. As for Dylan, I thought he did about all he could do. He was given some tough situations and just kept battling back,” said Midway’s head coach Jason Fussell. “We are feeling fortunate right now, but we’ll take it.”
Coach Fussell mentioned how important the opener of a series like this is. “In a format like this, it is all about adjusting. Winning the first game is always very important.”
Midway takes on South Granville for the second game of the series on Thursday night at seven at South Granville in the Creedmoor area. If necessary, game three is set for Friday night at seven, back in Spivey’s Corner.