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Raiders win exciting rubber game against Knights

BONNE TERRE – The North County Raiders and Farmington Knights met for the third time this season and second time in three days on Monday with regular-season title implications at stake in the MAAA Small-School division.

Farmington stood just one win away from a perfect 10-0 finish in league play, but North County rallied from two separate one-run deficits at home to earn a thrilling 3-2 victory.

North County (17-4) used the bunt as a key weapon in their victory, executing three total sacrifices, including two in the fifth inning which led directly to the winning run.

Farmington (14-5) put men on base in every inning, but struggled mightily to produce hits in clutch situations. Seven of the nine runners left on base by the Knights were stranded in scoring position.

The Knights quickly took their initial lead in the first inning on back-to-back doubles by Josh Taylor and Aaron Holman, but the Raiders countered to even the score in their half of the first. Josh Jaco reached on an error and stole second base before racing home on a two-out, RBI single by C.J. Peterson.

Two North County errors in the second inning helped the Knights promptly regain the lead. Matt Usherwood reached base on a misplayed ground ball at shortstop, then reached second after being hit in the back by an errant throw.

Farmington nearly wasted the scoring chance after a trailing base runner was caught stealing on a nice pick-off move from pitcher Wes Foshee. However, Schuyler Semar stepped up with a RBI double past the third base bag to give the Knights a 2-1 edge.

The Raiders wasted a lead-off double by Lance Eftink in their half of the second, but leveled the score once again in the fourth. Nick Eckl started the frame with a single to right field and was sacrificed to second by Eftink. Ryan Blankenship followed with a RBI single up the middle to make it 2-2.

North County grabbed its first and only lead when Jaco opened the fifth with a double to left. After moving up to third on a bunt, Jaco scored on a squeeze play with Peterson earning the RBI.

Farmington picked up back-to-back singles from Usherwood and Josh Boyer with one out in the sixth, but stranded the bases loaded after Blankenship took the mound to induce two fly outs to center field. The Knights mounted another late threat when Stuart Sago tripled with two outs in the seventh, but Blankenship answered with a big strikeout to notch his sixth save.

Foshee allowed one earned run on seven hits while striking out five over five and one-third innings to improve his pitching record on the season to 7-1.

Brent Baxley gave Farmington a strong complete-game effort in defeat, giving up just two earned runs on seven hits, while striking out three and walking none.

The win not only gives the Raiders a 2-1 edge in the season series against their league rivals, but also keeps them in the hunt for a share of the conference crown. North County needs a victory at Fredericktown this afternoon to draw even with Farmington at 9-1 in the division standings.

Holman and Usherwood were each 2-for-3 at the plate for the Knights, who will travel to Jackson today for what could be a preview of a possible district tournament match-up next week.

Cape Central 8, North County 1

BONNE TERRE – North County played a non-conference game against Cape Central on Monday prior to its evening contest against Farmington, but did not fare well. The Raiders fell behind early and collected just five hits in an 8-1 loss to the Tigers.

Cape Central (13-10) had its offense firing early with two runs in the first inning. Zac Hudson opened the game with a long triple and would finish the day 3-for-4 at the plate.

North County second baseman Matt Thompson momentarily prevented a run with a diving catch on a line drive, but Matt Hester singled up the middle to put the Tigers on top before scoring the second run of the frame on a throwing error.

After Cape Central picked up an unearned tally in the top of the third inning, Josh Jaco got the run back during the home half with a home run to left-center field. The solo shot was the second of the year for the sophomore.

Jaco was also the starting pitcher for the Raiders, but lasted just four innings in the loss after picking up three strikeouts. Cape Central put the game out of reach with five runs in the fourth, highlighted by a grand slam from Scott Brueckner which followed three straight singles.

Tyler Beers struck out five batters in two scoreless innings of relief for North County, and C.J. Peterson led the Raider offense by going 2-for-3. Brueckner and Hester were each 2-for-4 for the Tigers.

Farmington 110 000 0 – 2 8 2

North County 100 110 x – 3 7 2

Farmington:

Hitting – Holman 2, Usherwood 2, Taylor, Sago, Boyer, Semar. 2b – Holman, Taylor, Semar. 3b – Sago.

Pitching – Baxley (L) 6i 3r 2er 7h 3k 0bb.

North County:

Hitting – Jaco, Peterson, Hulsey, Eckl, Eftink, Blankenship, Foshee. 2b – Jaco, Eftink.

Pitching – Foshee (W) 5 1/3i 2r 1er 7h 5k 2bb, Blankenship (SV) 1 2/3i 0r 1h 2k 1bb.

Cape Central 201 500 0 – 8 11 1

North County 001 000 0 – 1 5 2

Cape Central:

Hitting – Hudson 3, Hester 2, Brueckner 2, Craft, Cooper, Minch, Fondren. 3b – Hudson. HR – Brueckner.

Pitching – Young (W) 5i 1r 3h 2k 3bb 1hb, Reece 1i 0r 1h 0k 0bb, LaBruyere 1i 0r 1h 1k 1bb.

North County:

Hitting – Peterson 2, Harris, Jaco, Hawkins. 2b – Peterson. HR – Jaco (2).

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