04/20/08 — Chargers slip from Eagles' grip

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Chargers slip from Eagles' grip

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 20, 2008 1:30 PM

Pitching chart in hand, Rosewood head baseball coach Josh Smith watched helplessly from the dugout as his team labored through a disastrous sixth inning Friday evening.

Surging Ayden-Grifton parlayed three errors and three hits into a four-run outburst, and used its as the springboard to a come-from-behind 5-4 victory on the Eagles' diamond. The Chargers (8-10 overall) presented head coach Chris Ross with his 400th career victory and evened their Class 1-A Carolina Conference worksheet at 3-3.

Rosewood (8-8) dipped to 3-3 in the league.

Eagle right-hander Matt Neal threw just 23 pitches and carried a perfect game into the fourth inning. He allowed two base runners, but left both stranded by inducing back-to-back groundouts.

The Chargers put two runners aboard with one out in the fifth. Neal coerced consecutive flyouts to center fielder Cody Richards to end the threat.

Neal's good fortune disappeared in the sixth.

Ayden-Grifton started its four-run uprising on an infield error and Geronnie Gay's bloop single to shallow center field. Another infield bobble allowed one run to cross the plate. With two runners on base, Bryant Vandiford slapped a fastball over the left-field fence to put the Chargers ahead 4-3.

"We kind of got back on our heels up 3-0 in the sixth and took things, maybe a little, for granted," said Smith. "We gave Ayden-Grifton a couple of extra outs and they took advantage of our miscues. That was the game right there."

The Eagles rallied.

Holt Rains stroked a two-strike fastball down the third-base line for a double. He moved into scoring position on Richards' grounder to second base and trotted home for the 4-4 tie on a wild pitch.

Another defensive miscue aided Ayden-Grifton's late-game comeback.

Spencer Dickerson drilled a lead-off single to right field and headed to second on Gay's sacrifice bunt. The Eagles' defense drifted away from third base and Dickerson easily slid in untouched.

"The mental game is what got us tonight," said Smith.

Rosewood put runners at second and third with one out in the seventh, but couldn't score. Ayden-Grifton reliever Brandon Long induced a pop-up along the third-base line and struck out the final batter to seal the win.

"That ball game could have gone either way," said Ross. "We've learned how to battle the last three weeks and I'm most proud of the kids for that."

The Eagles built a 3-0 lead on a third-inning error and back-to-back home runs from Rains and Richards in the fourth. It was Rains' third dinger of the season and Richards' second blast. Overall, Rosewood has smacked 11 round-trippers in 16 contests.