Power pitching for Wingate, North Carroll

Power pitching for Wingate, North Carroll
North Carroll's Elijah Wingate pitches against Cashtown. (KEN KOONSSTAFF PHOTO / Carroll County Times)

In the midst of one of his longest, and best, outings of the year, South Penn League veteran pitcher Elijah Wingate exited the top of the sixth inning Thursday with his North Carroll team tied in the first-round playoff opener.

Wingate took a seat on a bucket of balls, and as the rest of his teammates filed into the dugout at North Carroll High School, he challenged the club he also manages to make things a little easier on him.


"Come on guys," he said. "Give me one here."

Hearing the call of their starter, the Panthers put together a one-run bottom of the sixth, good enough to outlast visiting Cashtown for the 2-1 victory in the best-of-three series.

"This team has come through, for the most part, all year long," said Wingate, who struck out nine Pirates and allowed only two hits during his complete game effort. "I have no doubt that we're going to put up runs."

With both teams having trouble piecing together enough hits for a big inning, the Panthers' winning run came by simply putting the ball in play.

Ben Wilson started off the inning with a five-pitch walk. After Dave Freeman flied out to right, Nate Walker dug into the box and, on a full count, drove a double down the line into left field.

Danny Ditman struck out with men on second and third, but with two outs, Levi Lafferty looped a short pop-up in the infield grass, which eluded Cashtown second baseman Eric Ketterman, who fumbled the catch. The error allowed Wilson to score the go-ahead run.

"I was trying to see if the ball was going to drop," said Wilson, who walked twice in the game. "I knew I had to score because it was a tie game, bottom of the sixth. And I knew that Elijah was going to come out in the top of the seventh and mow them down for us. We just needed that one more run, and we got it."

Walker's double was one of two extra-base hits for the Panthers. Wingate's two-bagger in the first inning was the other.

Cashtown hurler Dane Purdy nearly matched Wingate's effectiveness on the mound, striking out eight in the loss. The home team managed just three hits on the day, and left six men on base during the contest.

With plenty of chances to make the most of certain situations — the Pirates committed two errors, and Purdy walked five — coach Brandon March said the team will have to get more consistent at the plate if it wants to prolong the season.

"Going through the playoffs, we're not going to win off two runs," he said. "It's not going to happen. I mean, these were two great pitchers going today … Defense played great, but we've got to come through on more opportunities."

The Pirates struck first in the top of the second inning, when Freeman's error at third base allowed designated hitter Travis Byers on with no outs. A passed ball advanced Byers, though Wingate struck out Casey Kline in the next at-bat.

Tige McCurdy reached on a single, and then back-to-back walks to Lurch Ketterman and Dylan Reinert brought Byers in to score.

North Carroll didn't wait long to respond, and after Walker grounded out to short to force a fielder's choice in the bottom half of the inning, the left fielder scored two batters later when Lafferty's grounder turned into an error on the attempted double-play.


For the rest of the way, it was all pitching and defense. Aside from Walker's diving catch at the fence in the third, the game was in Wingate's hands on the bump. The 13-year veteran mixed his fastballs with the occasional wrinkle, as well as a knuckleball that March commended following the game.

Wingate, a South Penn League all-star this summer, has been dealing with arm soreness all year. And after throwing earlier in the season, he shut himself down from pitching for more than a month before making his return.

Excluding pitching effectiveness, March said the team needs to be steadier in its quest for its first league title since 2013 (NC was runner-up last year). The Panthers get a chance to close the series Saturday in Cashtown with Ditman on the mound. If they lose, they'll head back to Hampstead the next day for the elimination game.

"When this team is on, pitching and batting, this is a team I do not want to face," March said. "This team, when they're clicking, they're unstoppable."