FAYETTEVILLE — By the time the bottom of the sixth inning rolled around, it seemed clear Fayetteville and Ariton’s second game of the day was likely headed into extra innings to see who blinked first.
Ariton put two players on base, but the Wolves recorded two outs in the process. So Fayetteville coach Morris Phillips made the decision to intentionally walk Landon Tyler in order to put Ariton’s reserve catcher Dalton Murphy, a freshman, in the hot seat.
“And everything fell perfectly just like we needed it to,” Phillips said, reliving Murphy’s at-bat. “We just don’t make the play we needed. We didn’t bust our tail to make the play we needed to get us out of the inning.”
The hit landed in the infield and rolled. The ball was fielded quickly, a short distance from first, but the sidearm to first flew wide right, allowing Murphy to reach base as two of his teammates scored. Ariton added two more runs that inning to claim a 7-3 victory that eliminated Fayetteville in the second round of the Class 2A playoffs.
“We talk about all the time you never know when that moment is going to come,” Ariton coach Logan Dunlap said of the game-winning sequence. “When that situation is going to present itself and the opportunity to come through in a big moment for your team. Because Dalton is a young guy. He hasn’t played a ton, so for him to be a game two, round two of the playoffs, that is huge for him.”
Much like the second game, Fayetteville spent most of the first contest in a deadlock with Ariton. The visitors defeated Fayetteville in the first game of Friday’s doubleheader 5-1 after Ariton scored the final four runs of the game in the fifth inning to break open what had previously been a 1-1 tie.
Fayetteville actually seemed poised to strike first when an errant throw in the fourth inning allowed Fayetteville to advance runners to second and third base when one of them should have instead been caught cold in an attempted steal.
A subsequent walk loaded the bases just as it came time for the top of the Wolves lineup with only one out. Instead of capitalizing, Fayetteville’s bats went cold, stranding all three runners.
“I’m thinking over there this is like a 5-run inning for them,” Dunlap said. “So I went out, took a mound visit there, and told them at the end of the day things aren’t going our way right now, and the most important thing is how we respond.”
Three to know
— Fayetteville's starting pitcher in game one, Pacey Deloach, started the day strong. He gave up only three hits through four innings while recording three of his four strikeouts.
— The Wolves fell behind minutes into the second game when Tyler (who Fayetteville later intentionally walked) sent one over the fence to give Ariton a 2-0 lead over Fayetteville with only one out on the board. An error allowed the next batter to reach first, but a timely double play got the Wolves out of trouble.
— Ariton’s starting catcher Connor Thrash left the game with a possible shoulder injury suffered while he tried to recover a loose ball near home plate in the top of the second inning. The loss would prove significant as Fayetteville scored twice later in the same inning due to miscues at home plate.
— Phillips on senior Sawyer Wales: “Sawyer Wales is one that stands out a lot. He gives you all he’s got in practice. He wants to do the extra stuff in practice to try and get better. He is always wanting to work. He is one of the first ones here getting equipment out, he’s getting the tarps off the field. He is usually one of the last ones to leave to make sure everything gets up. Sawyer Wales is really going to be missed.”
— Phillips on the end of the season: “Hats off to Ariton for getting to advance, but I wish we were in their shoes, but again we were very blessed, very fortunate to still be in the playoffs. I say it every year, and every week, there are a lot of good teams sitting at home, so we’re very thankful.”