Published: Jul 12, 2006 12:51 PM
Modified: Jul 12, 2006 01:40 PM
Cary High was looking to add another comeback and win to a long list of late-season successes on May 19. The Imps' turnaround, though, ended with a 7-6 loss at Broughton High in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-A Baseball Playoffs.
"We came in with the mind-set that we were going to win," said Cary coach Joe Lapp, whose team went 13-16 in his first year as the Imps' coach. "The boys have gotten very confident."
Among those was senior Bryan Booth, the UNC-Wilmington signee who played what Lapp described as "the game of his life," hitting three homers and driving in four runs.
While Cary led throughout most of the game, Broughton's Tim Smalling, a University of Arkansas recruit, hit his first homer to spark a four-run Caps rally to take a 5-4 lead.
Cary, unwilling to leave without a fight, regained a 6-5 lead off Booth's two-run bomb -- his third after a pair of solo shots in the first and third innings.
Hoping to ward off any Broughton rally in the bottom of the seventh, Lapp turned to Booth to close out the game and repeat his performance in Cary's 6-1 first-round playoff win over Clayton High on May 16.
With one out and a runner on, though, Smalling connected on a two-strike pitch and hit a walk off two-run homer.
"I just feel bad for everybody because we all thought we could win it," Booth said. "Everybody played great and I'm really proud of everyone for all of this year. It's just sad that we have to end it now."
Michael D'Elia pitched five solid innings for Cary and contributed a solo home run as well. After Broughton (20-5) picked up its first run, Lapp brought in reliever Nathan Levy in the sixth.
Cary's 4-1 lead quickly disappeared as Broughton scored four runs in the sixth inning. Smalling hit a two-run homer before a walk and singles by Graham Ferguson, Michael Zeblo and Tim Justice gave the Caps a 5-4 lead.
Against Broughton, the Imps appeared to be a different team than the one that won its first playoff game. The Imps had made pitcher Chris Archer, a University of Miami recruit, work hard against Clayton, throwing 100 pitches in four innings alone.
Cary had two or more runners on base in five of the seven innings played, and with Booth on the mound, Clayton was 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, including the last nine at bats.
"The ball was carrying better today, but we didn't have as many hard-line drives," Lapp said. "I don't know what the difference was, but I'm just sad that we lost it."
On Friday, it seemed the Imps' strategy was to aim for the fence -- and it worked four times. The team has worked on its hitting throughout the season with hitting coach Clay Council. From working with tennis balls to improving eye-contact, Council's methods proved to be successful.
Despite the loss, the Imps broke an eight-year slump of not making the postseason and disproved many doubters by putting themselves back on the map.
"Everyone has matured greatly," Booth said. "Just thinking back to the first day of practice to how we went through all of those slumps and how we were able to get here today, it really shows how everyone has done their job."
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