Midway’s stellar season ends in Eastern Championship thriller

Ryan Lee during game two at South Granville.

Dylan Hardison pitching. He gave the Midway Raiders a great performance every time he took the hill this season.

Matt Barefoot pitching against South Granville. Barefoot had an incredible year and career at Midway, and will continue his career at Campbell University next season.

Midway DH Wesley Johnson strides in against South Granville. Johnson was a big part of Midway’s success this season after being brought up from JV mid-season.

Well, if you were in Spivey’s Corner on Friday night and didn’t care who won, you were more than likely at the most entertaining baseball game you will ever see. If you pulled for South Granville, you left with a huge sigh of relief. If you were a Raider, you were heartbroken.

It took 14 innings to decide who would go to the 2015 NCHSAA State Championship next week and take on Randleman High School. The Raiders made too many mental mistakes to earn a berth in their third consecutive state championship series.

The game began with a Justin Bullock home-run in the first inning for the second consecutive game. Once again, it was a two-run shot to left-field. The Vikings added another run on a wild pitch in the next inning, going up 3-0.

The Raider offense was struggling entering the fourth inning, when Tyler Pope sent a three-run shot to left-field to tie the game up. An inning later, the Raiders would take the lead on Kyle Hawley’s RBI single.

South would come back the next half inning to plate two more. This put them up 6-4. But back came the Raiders. In the sixth, Drake Strickland hit a chopper up the middle to score Landon Dorman, who singled earlier in the inning. The next batter, Jake Clark, laid down a beautiful bunt down the first base line to score Dylan Hardison from third base. We were tied again, headed to the seventh.

The Raider offense stalled in the bottom of the seventh, and we were in for free baseball. Raider starter Matt Barefoot had threw too many pitches to keep going, so Midway inserted Ryan Lee into the game. The Raider pitcher once again did a great job in pitching the next four innings. South Granville would score a run on him in the eleventh, but Midway would tie it again in the bottom half.

With runners on second and third with 1 out in the eleventh, Wesley Johnson ripped a shot to left-field. The Viking left-fielder made a diving catch, then doubled up the Raiders on the basepath as they were breaking already, thinking that the ball was down. It was the Raiders’ best chance to score the winning run, and another opportunity gone for naught.

Cameron Godwin came to the mound in the twelfth, and gave Midway a couple of solid innings. He allowed a run in the twelfth, but once again, Midway was able to tie things, this time at 8-8 when Matt Barefoot had an RBI walk. Midway would get no more, and South Granville would get out of the bases-loaded jam.

In the top of the fourteenth, South Granville’s Clay Walters hit a fly ball down the left-field line. Trey Wood dove and was unable to make the play, which allowed Walters to score on an inside-the-park home-run for the final margin. Dylan Hardison would come in and get Midway out of the inning without anymore damage, but the Raider offense was finally out of gas.

“This is a great group of guys,” Midway’s head coach Jason Fussell said. “This one just wasn’t meant to be. We have had a lot of things fall our way in the past, but tonight just simply wasn’t our night. We just had too many mistakes on the basepaths. With all of that being said, I am extremely proud of this group. This team was able to accomplish so much more than anyone thought they would at the beginning of the year, and that is all because of the seniors. They held this team together and made it what it was.”

In case you missed it, here’s what happened in Midway’s game two loss at South Granville, by a score of 3-1 on Thursday.

Midway got a great pitching performance from Senior Ryan Lee. Lee walked no batters and allowed just 6 hits. His one mistake on the night, a fastball that came in back across the plate to Jordan Bullock, who hit a homer in the first inning with a runner on to give SGHS the 2-0 lead. Midway would get their run on a solo shot by Kyle Hawley in the top of the fourth inning. That and a Dylan Hardison single would be the only two hits for the Raiders on a night where they could not seem to make any sort of adjustment to pitching slower than what they are accustomed to seeing.

South would score another run in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out double down the left-field line for an extra bit of insurance.

Midway had a big chance to capitalize in the third inning with runners on first and second with no outs after Dylan Hardison’s single and Drake Strickland reached via a base on balls. Midway failed to get a bunt down, popping it up to the pitcher, who briskly flipped it back to second base for a double play.

Midway’s head coach Jason Fussell was pleased with his pitcher on the night, but frustrated with his offense. “We got one heck of a game from Ryan Lee. You can’t ask him to do anymore. Just one earned run, and that was the home—run. We have to do a better job at the plate, I mean, we have to be able to make adjustments. We couldn’t do it tonight, and they had a couple of pitchers have nice outings.”

For Midway, this season was their seventh consecutive 20 win season. They racked up another conference championship, and reached the Eastern Championship for a third consecutive season. It is the first time in three years that Midway will not play in the state championship.

The seniors on this team each left all they had on the field, because they knew no other way. They lived, breathed, ate, and slept Midway baseball. The group of Barefoot, Hawley, Wood, Pope, Godwin, Lee, and Strickland each leave with a state championship under their belt, and a precedent set for younger ones that excellence is the only thing acceptable in Midway baseball.