Rockdale, Ga., Post 77 opened its elimination game against Fort Pierce, Fla., Post 358 in the Southeast Regional on Friday on a roll.
After an out to start the game, Rockdale loaded the bases and Jake Wright ripped a 2-run double off of Post 358 starting right-handed pitcher Richard Harrell, leaving runners on second and third.
Then the rains came.
Two separate storms caused a delay of almost 2 ½ hours, and when the game finally resumed, Post 77 out of Conyers, Ga., didn’t have the same hop in its step.
With left-hander Tim Farrell on the game once it restarted, Fort Pierce took control of the game and went on to an 8-5 victory at Riley Park. It improved to 24-11 on the season and will take on either South Carolina state champion Florence Post 1 or Virginia state champion Lynchburg Post 16 in an elimination game at approximately 2 p.m. today.
“The rain delay was just huge,” said Rockdale head coach Jack Murphy, whose team finished the year with a 30-3 record. “We came out, we looked like we were excited to be playing and were ready to play. Florida really looked a little flat.
“When we got back out there, Florida seemed to have the momentum,” he added. “They took all of the momentum from us. It was big, but you’ve got to give Florida credit. They did what they needed to do.
Farrell came in and got out of the inning without another run scoring. Fort Pierce scored three times in the bottom of the first off of Rockdale right-hander Matt Anderson. Rocky Wright had an RBI single, Ken Pampena had a sacrifice fly and Kohl Gilmore scored on a wild pitch to account for the runs.
Florida head coach Andrew Wells agreed with Murphy over the importance of the rain delay.
“It was big for us,” Wells said. “It allowed us to settle down a little bit, and when we started back we had the momentum. I don’t know how we would have done if we had stayed with our starting pitcher.”
The decision was made to go with Farrell and not Harrell just because of the length of the rain delay. Rockdale touched Farrell up for two runs in the second to go back on top. Tyler Mahan led off with a double and scored on Jeremy Sparks’ single. Sparks later scored on a Randy Loew sacrifice fly.
After that, Farrell shut down Post 77, although it wasn’t always pretty. Farrell scattered eight hits over 8 2/3 innings while walking six and striking out just one. Still, he allowed just three runs, only two earned.
“Tim just pitched great,” Wells said. “He gave us everything that he had.”
Farrell was expecting to pitch, just not in the first inning.
“The plan was for me to come in somewhere between the sixth and ninth innings when Richard began to tire,” Farrell said. “The rain delay came and they said they wanted to put me in and I was ready.”
“I got stronger as the game went along,” he added. “At first I struggled with my getting my pitches over consistently. From the fifth through the ninth innings I was pretty good with my pitches.”
And Post 77’s staff wasn’t. While Rockdale allowed only eight hits, it walked 11 while striking out just one. There were three wild pitches, one passed ball and one hit batter as well.
“We didn’t help ourselves with all we did with the walks and wild pitches,” Murphy said. “We haven’t pitched like that all season.”
Fort Pierce tied the game in the bottom of the second and went ahead in the fourth as Brandon Brown scored on an Anderson wild pitch.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the seventh. Post 358 loaded the bases against reliever Daniel Jackson. He hit Brown to force in a run and Mike Shabareck put down a perfect bunt on a suicide squeeze to score Damon Collada.
“It’s about getting hits with guys on base,” said Wells, whose team lost to Sumter 11-1 in its opening game on Thursday. “Our guys got some big hits today and we took advantage of what they gave us.”