BISCOE — Cody Steele scored from second on a two-out single by Chase Thompson in the bottom of the 11th inning to give East Montgomery a 1-0 1A West first-round win over visiting Elkin Saturday night.
Thompson hit a sharp single to right field and Elkin rightfielder Jeremy Pierce charged it and came up with it cleanly. Pierce’s throw was taken by Daniel Brinegar and the tag was applied as Thompson slid in.
Elkin fans and players thought Steele was out and East Montgomery fans and players thought Steele was safe, but the only opinion that mattered was that of the umpire and his call was safe.
East Surry awaited the winner and East Surry Coach Barry Hall was in attendance to scout the game. Asked in the top of the 11th if he was still a scout, Hall replied, “We stopped scouting this game a long time ago. Sometimes you just watch and enjoy.”
It was a game neither team deserved to lose; a game neither starter deserved to lose.
Elkin starter Will Altemueller and East Montgomery starter Nate Reynolds showed what happens when you throw strikes and let the defense play behind you.
Altemueller lasted nine innings, throwing 106 pitches, allowing four hits, walking two, hitting one, and striking out seven. Three of those strikeouts came in the ninth inning after he fell behind Thompson 3-1 and appeared to be running out of gas.
“What can you say?” Elkin Coach Steve Martin said. “Nine innings. A hundred and six pitches. Their pitcher threw just as well.”
Reynolds went 10 innings, throwing 121 pitches, allowing six hits, walking two, hitting one, and striking out seven. Reynolds threw a steady diet of curve balls, keeping Elkin off balance. The ball moved from left to right and appeared to drop as well.
It was a lot for the home plate umpire to judge pitch after pitch, but Reynolds was consistent after the first inning and got the benefit of the doubt.
Both teams repeatedly put runners in scoring position with less than two out and both teams came up with defensive gems or pitchers came up with strikeouts to keep the game scoreless.
All three of East Montgomery’s defensive gems were turned in by second baseman Peyton Williams. In the eighth, Williams went high to snag a line drive hit by Drew Shinkle. Williams then easily threw Brinegar out at first to complete a double play. In the ninth and again in the 11th, Williams took base hits away from Pierce and Aaron Sturdivant.
The catch on Sturdivant came with the bases loaded and two out.
Pierce, with runners on first and second and one out in the fourth, made a great running catch near the foul line in right to keep the Eagles off the board.
Walker Longworth made back-to-back great stretches and catches at first base in the sixth. The second play started with a diving stop by Shinkle on a ball up the middle.
Altemueller, moved to first for the 10th inning, made a great scoop on a low throw by Tanner Edwards for the first out. Edwards, charging a choppy bunt, had to throw off balance and on the run and Altemueller made sure the effort by Edwards paid off.
Elkin left two runners on in the first and the bases loaded in the seventh and the 11th. East Montgomery left two on in the fourth; a runner on third with one out in the fifth; the bases loaded with one out in the eighth; and the bases loaded in the 10th.
“That was something to behold,” East Montgomery Coach Sean Hassell said. “The thing about the playoffs is neither team wants to give up. I knew it was going to be a tough game with Elkin.”
Hassell said Reynolds, a senior who improved his record to 7-1, has been consistent all year. “You know what you are going to get from him every night,” Hassell said.
Brinegar had the first three hits off of Reynolds and finished his night 3-for-4. Edwards had two hits, including a double in the top of the 11th. Bubba Bradley, who relieved Altemueller on the mound in the 10th, had two hits.
“This was just a well-played ball game,” Martin said. “It was the best game we’ve had — except the hitting.
“They can walk off the field with their heads high.”
The game was played at a brisk pace, taking only two hours and 26 minutes to complete.
East Montgomery improved to 17-4 and moves on to face undefeated East Surry in Pilot Mountain Tuesday.
“I don’t know if anybody has anything for East Surry,” Martin said. The Buckin’ Elks lost to East Surry, 7-1, early in the season in Elkin.
Elkin finishes its season at 8-16.
E 000 000 000 00 — 0 7 1
EM 000 000 000 01 — 1 5 1
E: Will Altemueller, Bubba Bradley (10) and Daniel Brinegar. EM: Nate Reynolds, Ryan Webb and Chase Thompson. 2B: Tanner Edwards (E).
Jim Fuller may be reached at 336-835-1513 or on Twitter @elkinareasports.