North Lenoir defeats Ayden-Grifton on Brock's walkoff

North Lenoir defeats Ayden-Grifton on Brock's walkoff

LA GRANGE — North Lenoir’s Eastern Carolina Conference hopes are still alive.

Garrett Brock’s walkoff single in the bottom of the seventh gave the Hawks a thrilling 5-4 win over Ayden-Grifton Thursday at home. North Lenoir (14-4, 7-3 ECC) fell behind 3-0 after the first inning and never led until Brock’s dramatic hit.

The Hawks have won the ECC regular-season title every year since the conference’s inception in 2014, and moved into a tie with the Chargers (12-7, 7-3) for second place, one game behind Washington.

“We kept fighting and found a way to answer,” North Lenoir coach Jackson Massey said. “We knew there was plenty of time and we didn’t need to go away from our style. We were able to keep it close and then have the big plays at the end.”

The Chargers won the first meeting 4-2 on March 26 and struck in the opening frame Thursday, benefitting off an error to bring home a run before Josh Harris’ two-run double. North Lenoir scored on an RBI double from Jayden Gatling and a wild pitch in the second to get within 3-2, but Ayden-Grifton scored after consecutive North Lenoir errors in the third.

Brock had an RBI single in the bottom of the third to bring the Chargers within 4-3 and the Hawks would later load the bases, but a diving catch from Tanner Cannon in rightfield robbed Trent King of an extra-base hit. From there, the game would be a pitcher’s duel as North Lenoir’s Peyton Howard and Trevor Sears battled Ayden-Grifton’s Austin Jones and Conner Allen. The Chargers would get another great defensive gem as third baseman Blake McLawhorn dove for Ethan May’s grounder and started an inning-ending double play in the fifth.

Ayden-Grifton maintained its 4-3 advantage until the bottom of the seventh when Malik Dixon’s one-out grounder was mishandled. After a stolen base and a Brendon Grant walk, North Lenoir had runners on the corners for Ethan May, who hit a shot to right. Cannon caught it and looked to catch Dixon at home, but his throw sailed wide and Dixon tied the game at 4.

“I didn’t even see the throw,” Dixon said. “I just knew as soon as (Cannon) caught it, I needed to do my  job and make a play for the team.”

One pitch later, Brock hit one to leftfield to bring in pinch-runner Hunter Colie and start a wild celebration.

“All night, I had been jumping at the first pitch and it worked for me,” Brock said. “It was definitely a special moment and I had some help — I usually draw a cross in the dirt before an at-bat for the Lord, and He really helped me with that one there. I’m thankful we were able to get it done.”

Ayden-Grifton coach Corey Skinner said it was a tough loss, especially for a team that could’ve controlled its destiny with a win, but the focus is now on the remainder of the season.

“We weren’t able to do enough to get the win,” Skinner said. “We couldn’t get that extra hit, extra defensive play, extra pitch. We came up short, but we have to get ready for our next game. I told the guys we would be conference champions if we went 3-0 and while we can’t do that now, we have a chance if we go 2-1.”

The Pam Pack secures the ECC with wins against Kinston and West Craven. There is a chance for three conference champions if Washington drops one of those games, coupled with North Lenoir and Ayden-Grifton winning out.

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