Tuscola baseball's epic run comes to an end just shy of state finals

May 27—The Tuscola baseball season came to a heartbreaking close Friday night — ending a season that captured the hearts and minds of those from across Haywood County.

The Mounties dropped game three of the regional championship series 6-3, closing out their season by being eliminated in the final four.

After winning game one on Tuesday, Tuscola dropped game two at home on Thursday setting up the winner-take-all game three Friday night at East Rowan.

The No. 10-seeded Mounties drew first blood in the game, going up 2-0 in the top of the first.

Senior Jed West was hit by a pitch and junior Kolt Nelson was walked, giving Tuscola their first two runners of the night on base.

Sophomore Amos Rich followed that up with a double that scored both players and gave the Mounties the early lead.

In the bottom of the first, however, No. 1-seeded East Rowan struck back.

After a lead-off strikeout, the Mustangs recorded two singles to get runners on the corners. That was followed by sophomore Harrison Alishie sending one deep over the right field wall for the go-ahead three-run home run.

Alishie seemed to be the Achilles heel of the Mounties all series. Tuscola somewhat struggled to hit off of the sophomore in game one. Once he was replaced on the mound, the Mounties came back to win.

One day before his home run in game three, Alishie hit a grand slam in the fourth inning of game two to blow the game open on Tuscola's home field and take the Waynesville crowd out of the game.

In the second inning, both teams went down in order with a total of five strikeouts among the six batters.

In the bottom of the third, the Mustangs doubled their score. A two-out double gave the Mustangs some life. That's when Alishie showed up again, hitting an RBI single to make it 4-2.

Senior McCall Henderson then stepped to the plate, belting a two-run home run over the right field wall to make it a 6-2 game.

From there, the game turned into a pitchers' duel. From the top of the fourth through the top of the sixth, only three batters reached base — two of which ended up getting caught up in double plays turned by the Mounties defense.

In the top of the seventh, Tuscola got the bats going momentarily.

Junior Evan Conner led the inning off with a single on a ground ball into left field. The next batter grounded out, moving Conner over to second.

Then junior Tyler Williams stepped up and singled on a ground ball up the middle, scoring Conner from second and cutting the Mounties' deficit to 6-3.

A ground-out and pop-out followed to end the game and the Mounties' season.

While the season is over, there is nothing to regret for the Mounties. Tuscola made the final four for the first time since 2010 — the last time a Haywood County baseball team made it that far.

Tuscola finished the season 22-7. Among those 22 wins were a County Clash victory, two wins over West Henderson (one of which came in the playoffs with the Falcons seeded No. 2), a playoff win over No. 3 North Davidson and a playoff win over No. 1 East Rowan on the road.