Ardrey Kell and Greenville Rose combined for six errors in Friday's opening game of the N.C. 4A Baseball Championship Series at Five County Stadium, but Rose won 5-3 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3 series.
The Knights took advantage of three Rose miscues in the fourth inning for a two-run lead.
Rose, which forced extra innings after knotting the score in the sixth (3-3), pounded out three consecutive hits in the eighth to take a 5-3 lead. The last hit, a triple by Clark Massey, scored Preston Mobley and Michael Spruill and chased Ardrey Kell starter Jordan Darnell.
The Knights must survive today's 2 p.m. contest to stop the Rampants from claiming their fifth championship since 1997 -- with all finals triumphs against Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (Providence 1997, South Mecklenburg 1999, Myers Park 2003 and Independence 2004).
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A third game, if necessary, will be played at 8 p.m. today.
"I was one of them in 1999," said Ardrey Kell coach Hal Bagwell referencing when he coached South Mecklenburg in that year's championship series. "We've got a team that can compete with them on any given day. If we don't come back and win two in a row, I'll be surprised."
Ardrey Kell (28-5), trailing 1-0 entering the bottom of the fourth, had the second hit off Rose southpaw winner Mark Wilder when Andrew Miller led off with a single before advancing to second on an errant pickoff attempt.
Then, Ryan Stetson drew a walk before Darnell reached on a fielder's choice that put Miller on third. Shortstop Massey booted Zico Pasut's grounder that scored Miller and tied the score.
In the fourth inning, Ardrey Kell shortstop Jonny Eaker bobbled an offering off the bat of Andrew Cain, who advanced to second on an errant pickoff attempt. A subsequent wild pitch by Darnell put Cain on third, from which Cain scored on a passed ball.
"The bottom line is, if we clean it up, we beat them period," Bagwell said.
Rose (27-3) added one run apiece in the fifth and sixth, both with two outs.
"We feel very fortunate to win tonight," Rose coach Ron Vincent said. "Tomorrow's another day."
"We've got to score runs. We've got to score at least five runs."