YORK — The Dragons squeaked by regular-season champ and No. 1-seed Smyrna 15-14 in Thursday’s York Parks and Rec Dixie Boys tournament championship.
Trailing 15-10 in the top of the seventh, the Cardinals rallied to push across four runs, but Dragons fended off a comeback.
Smyrna’s Wesley Ramsey and Justin Howell started the seventh frame with back-to-back walks. After Robert Dellinger reached on a force-out, Tanton Burns walked to load the bases.
Seth Smart hit a fly ball to right-center that the Dragons’ outfielders couldn’t catch up with, sending two runners across the plate.
Next, Drew Barton delivered a two-run single to right field, slicing the Dragons’ lead to a single run.
But the Dragons were able to hold on as relief pitcher Coby McNeely recorded a big strikeout to end the game.
The Cardinals built an early lead, scoring three runs in the top of the first inning. Dylan Benfield and Dellinger had back-to-back singles. Burns later lifted a fly ball to the outfield that scored Benfield and Dellinger.
Burns subsequently scored on a wild pitch.
Smyrna extended its lead in the third inning. After Dellinger drew a walk, Burns laced a triple down the left-field line, sending Dellinger across the plate.
Curtis Howell’s ground ball scored Burns from third, staking the Cardinals to a 5-0 lead.
The Dragons came storming back to score six runs in the bottom of the third and gain the lead for the first time.
Two runs were scored when Daniel Herlan’s grounder bounced off an infielder’s glove. Mac Adams’ single up the middle scored Herlan.
The key hit by the Dragons was a base-clearing triple by Seth Crawford, a solid line drive down the left-field line.
“I was trying to make contact,” Crawford said after the game. “The hit was exciting for me.”
With Crawford’s clutch hit, the Dragons had turned a 5-0 deficit into a 6-5 lead.
The Dragons expanded the lead to 9-5 in the fourth, highlighted by Adams’ run-scoring triple to right.
Smyrna plated three runs in the top of the fifth. Barton’s two-run single scoring Burns and Smart keyed the inning. Howell’s RBI-triple closed out the scoring for the Cardinals that inning.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the top of the sixth, Howell’s two-run double to left-field pushed the Cardinals ahead, 10-9.
But the Dragons rallied in the bottom of the inning. Herlan led off with a single. Adams reached on a force-out, setting the stage for Dillon Brown’s run-scoring double to tie the game.
Later, with the bases loaded, Crawford’s force-out scored Brown as the Dragons regained the lead 11-10.
Jack Adkins’ single to right field scored Clay Taylor and Drew Carroll. Trevor Pittman’s infield hit and a wild throw scored Adkins, after which McNeely’s triple scored Pittman, staking the Dragons to a 15-10 lead.
Smyrna’s dramatic rally in the top of the seventh came up short.
“It was a big win against a good Smyrna team,” said Dragons head coach Everett Whitesides. “Daniel Herlan did a good job pitching and hitting.”
“It was a great team win, with subs contributing off the bench,” he said. “The kids played together and won another back and forth game.
Smyrna, the regular-season champs, defeated the Longhorns 16-5 and the Dragons 17-3 to reach the tournament title game.
“We lost a close game,” said Smyrna head coach Justin Dellinger. “They hit the ball well and so did we. We had the early lead and let it get away.”
“I am proud of our kids,” said Dellinger. “They fought back for the win.”
Smyrna players wore double-zero on their sleeves during the game in honor of M.J. Comer, who is recovering from injuries sustained in an auto accident.
“M. J. is an outstanding player and our ace pitcher,’ he said.