Hoggard rallied to take Green Hope to extra innings on Tuesday night, but failed to score late in the game and dropped a 5 – 4 contest in game one of the best-of-three 4A East Regional Series.
The Vikings saw their 10-game winning streak snapped, dropping to 21-5 overall. Green Hope improved to 24-5 on the spring.
“We hurt ourselves early with a lack of communication,” Hoggard Head Coach Jeep St. Ledger said. “They capitalized on it.”
Hoggard found themselves in a hole early after the Falcons scored three runs in the top of the first inning against starting pitcher Rob Wilkerson.
Green Hope’s lead-off hitter, Connor Knapp, drew a walk to start the game. A blooper by the next batter fell between the shortstop and center fielder, which was followed by a bunt single to load the bases with no outs. Pitcher Mitch Spence helped his own cause with a 2 RBI double down the third base line, while the Falcons added one more on a base hit by Jordan Montgomery to make it 3 – 0 before the Vikings came up to bat.
Green Hope carried a four-run lead into the bottom of the second when the bats came out for Hoggard. Singles by Connor Simpson, Hunter Gaylord and Mike Gans loaded the bases with just one out as Simpson scored on a fielder’s choice. After J.P. Graham was hit by a pitch, the first of four Hoggard batters to get hit Tuesday night, the bases were loaded for the second time in the inning.
With two outs, Brad Pennington hit a hard ground ball down the third base line that deflected off the fielder’s glove and onto left field, clearing the bases and tying the game four-all.
Both teams threatened late but failed to get runs across, sending the game into extra innings.
In the eighth, a lead-off walk, sacrifice bunt and RBI single by Knapp plated the eventual game-winning run for Green Hope.
While Wilkerson, Cameron Godfrey, Logan Adams and Pennington split time on the mound for the Vikings on Tuesday, Falcons’ starting pitcher Mitch Spence went seven innings, notching six strikeouts and just one walk.
“They’re a little dejected, but this is a series,” St. Ledger said of reminding his players they still have another shot. “Now we’ve got an elimination game Thursday and [if we win], an elimination game Friday.”
Godfrey struck out four batters in three innings of relief, with one walk and two hits. Gans was the only Viking with a multi-hit game. He finished 2-for-4, while Pennington went 1-for-3, with 3 RBI.
The two teams meet again Thursday night in Cary for Game 2 of the best-of-three set.