CHERRYVILLE — Armed with just nine players, Rutherford County showed a lot of heart and toughness against Cherryville Post 100 in Game 2 of the Area IV Championship Series on Friday night, but a seven-run fourth inning was the deciding factor in Cherryville’s 10-0 six inning victory.

“We definitely played better tonight than we did last night,” acting manager Tyler Deaton said. “Avery Strange threw well early and our defense made some plays behind him to keep the game close. One inning got away from us, but I’m proud of the guys. They kept fighting. It’s tough when you only have nine players and you are asking most of them to play out of position.”

Cherryville coach Bobby Reynolds agrees that the scoreboard may not indicate how competitive the game actually was.

“Avery did a good job,” Reynolds said, “He was able to work ahead and keep us out in front. It’s not like we dominated the whole game. Like last night, we were able to get a run here and a run there and then one big inning.”

Avery Strange worked around a pair of walks in the first to post a scoreless frame. Cherryville hurler Joseph Webb stuck out two to leave the game scoreless. Cherryville scratched a run across in the top of the second thanks to a RBI triple from Landon Hahn, but Post 423 also flashed the leather as Je’Shaun Gill made a diving catch in center and Avery Strange picked off a runner to limit the damage.

Aiden Strange led off the bottom of the second with a walk and stole second. He moved to third on a wild pitch, but was left stranded.

Avery Strange retired the side in the third on just eight pitches and led off Post 423’s next at bat with a single. He moved to third on a pair of sacrifice bunts, but Webb recorded a strikeout to end the threat.

Webb helped himself at the plate in the top of the fourth with a RBI double. Pinch hitter Noah Ingle followed with a two-run single as Cherryville led 4-0 with no outs. Zach Wilson and Samuel Duncan added RBI singles before Zack Causby came in and put out the fire with Rutherford County trailing 8-0.

Dalton Pence recorded an RBI on a fielder’s choice to make the score 9-0. David Conner singled to lead off the bottom of the fifth, but was left stranded.

Brett Mason collected a RBI hit in the sixth to push the Cherryville’s lead to double digits at 10-0. Alex Clark walked with one out in Post 423’s last at bat and Riley Stanley walked, but the bats could not push across a run to extend the game.

With the win, Cherryville will take the top spot from Area IV in the upcoming State Tournament which begins on Wednesday. Rutherford County will be the second seed.

Rutherford County will begin pool play on Wednesday at 1 p.m. against Wilmington. Rutherford County will then play Kannapolis at 10 a.m. on Thursday and Fuquay-Varina at 10 a.m. on Friday.

Full tournament schedule

Wednesday, July 28

Port City vs. Rowan County, 10 a.m.

Rutherford County vs. Wilmington, 1 p.m.

Kannapolis vs. Fuquay-Varina, 4 p.m.

Wayne County vs. Cherryville, 7 p.m.

Thursday, July 29

Kannapolis vs. Rutherford County, 10 a.m.

Wayne County vs. Port City, 1 p.m.

Wilmington vs. Fuquay-Varina, 4 p.m.

Rowan County vs. Cherryville, 7 p.m.

Friday, July 30

Rutherford County vs. Fuquay-Varina, 10 a.m.

Wayne County vs. Rowan County, 1 p.m.

Port City vs. Cherryville, 4 p.m.

Kannapolis vs. Wilmington, 7 p.m.

Saturday, July 31

Semifinals at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 1

Championship game at time to be determined