GC gets walkoff victory over South Lenoir in extras
Greene Central’s Zach Taylor hit two home runs and drove in six runs during the Rams’ contest with South Lenoir Wednesday. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
SNOW HILL — On Greene Central’s Senior Night, it was only fitting two would help the Rams win in a dramatic fashion.
A.J. Dupree scored after an error on Jalin Conner’s grounder, giving Greene Central a 10-9 win over South Lenoir in nine innings Wednesday. The victory was also the fifth straight for the Rams (7-8, 5-6 Eastern Carolina Conference) over the Blue Devils (4-10, 2-9) and third in the streak by one run.
On March 27, the Rams won 12-11 after a five-run rally from South Lenoir in the bottom of the seventh fell short. In another close match Wednesday, Conner and Dupree ensured their fellow seniors — Daren Barefoot, Dylan Benton, Payton Collins, Trey Fields, Cody Lanier, Walker Sutton and Alex Tyson — would see a win in the team’s final home game.
“This was the hardest we played all year,” Greene Central coach Scott Jones said. “I’m truly proud of the way they played and pulled for each other. On the mound, Zach (Taylor) competed and Trey (Fields) threw last night, but they kept us in it. We knew South Lenoir was going to battle — they bring it every night they’re on the field — but we were ready for it and I’m truly proud of the seniors.”
A junior did start off strong for Greene Central, as Taylor hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first. South Lenoir responded in the top of the second with a Christopher Tyndall RBI single and Jensen Barwick’s two-run triple to take the lead, but in the bottom of the frame a passed ball brought home a run and Taylor cranked a second 2-run blast for the 5-3 advantage.
“I was just seeing the ball well and trying to put it in play,” Taylor said after his big night.
South Lenoir answered again as Dylan Jones tied the game in the top of the third with a 2-run single before Chase Strain’s sacrifice fly put the Blue Devils ahead. Two innings later, an error on an Everett Oliver grounder brought home a run and Oliver scored during a pickle to end the frame to put South Lenoir ahead 8-5.
Greene Central responded in the bottom of the fifth with Beau Hedgepeth’s RBI single, then followed by a 2-run single from Taylor an inning later to tie it at 8. Greene Central moved ahead 9-8 on a wild pitch, but Jon Howard led the top of the seventh with a walkoff double, followed by Oliver’s RBI single to tie it. Both teams would get runners in scoring position during the seventh inning, but couldn’t capitalize and the game was sent to extras.
South Lenoir looked to do damage in the top of the ninth with Howard and Luke Thigpen getting singles and advancing a base, but Fields elicited a grounder to end the threat. In the bottom of the frame, Nathan Baker and Dupree led with walks, setting up Conner’s at-bat.
“My biggest thing was trying not to (strike out),” Conner said. “I wasn’t too surprised about what happened at the end because I knew if I put a bat on the ball, good things were going to happen.”
Conner hit a grounder to the pitcher, who got the ball to third for the first out, but the throw to first sailed wide. Dupree capitalized and crossed the plate without needing to slide.
“I just knew I had to go and make it across home plate,” Dupree said. “It felt great getting this and really ending Senior Night with a win.”
The Rams have won 41 games over the career of the seniors, including to playoff victories, one coming last season in the NCHSAA 2A first round against Spring Creek.
South Lenoir’s David Combs said the team had some unfortunate breaks, but praised the hustle and drive the Blue Devils exhibited.
“Every kid on the field made an impact for us tonight and this was our best effort all year,” Combs said. “You can’t say enough about Jon and his night — he busted his tail for us and we could’ve easily folded being down 2-0 after Zach’s first home run, and then again after his second. We kept battling and while we weren’t able to get the win, they did everything a coach could ask for out there on the field.”