ROCKINGHAM — After several failed attempts to put down a squeeze bunt in the contest, Rockingham finally got one down when it counted.
Drew Loving’s bunt single with one out in the bottom of the seventh scored Jamie Thomas with the winning run to lift Rockingham to a 5-4 victory over Southwest Randolph and to the Pony League’s Bronco Division Piedmont Section title Friday night.
Rockingham advances to the regional tournament in Charlotte, hosted by Mallard Creek. Rockingham will face the West Section winner in the opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Henry County, High Point Black and Jamestown are battling for the West Section championship in Huntsville.
Loving’s game-winning bunt gave the victory to Justin Ingram, who was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Southwest Randolph’s Bryce Marsh.
Ingram hurled a complete game, allowing four hits and two earned runs. He walked six and struck out four. Ingram escaped bases loaded jams in the first and fifth, surrendering a total of three runs in those innings.
Marsh relieved Fernando Fernandez with no outs in the first inning. Marsh gave up five hits and two runs in six innings. Marsh struck out 11, striking out the side in the first and sixth.
Because of Pony League rules limiting the number of innings a pitcher can throw, Southwest Randolph was forced to replace Marsh in the bottom of the seventh. Spencer Lanier started the frame, allowing a single to Thomas and throwing two balls to Joshua Griffith, before being replaced by Luke Johnson. Johnson struck out Griffith and gave up a bunt single to Alec Poplin to set up Loving’s heroics.
Earlier in the day, Rockingham remained undefeated in the tournament with a 13-2 win over Garner. Rockingham took advantage of four Garner errors in the sixth to score eight unearned runs to cruise to the victory. Rockingham led 5-2 before the game was suspended because of weather Thursday night going into the sixth inning.
Southwest Randolph edged Garner 6-5 in an elimination game to meet Rockingham for the region crown. Johnson scored three runs in the win for Southwest Randolph, while Andrew Cox had two RBIs.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com