In a pitching-dominated nine innings, the smallest bits of play can be the difference between winning and losing.
With Game 2 of the Area I West semifinals teetering between Coleman-Pitt Post 58 and Raleigh Post 1, a series of plays – near-big hits, an error, an effective reliever and a clutch hit – gave Post 1 just enough to escape Rocky Mount with a 3-2 victory Tuesday at Legion Field.
Post 1 took a 2-0 series lead with the victory and has a chance to sweep the five-game series tonight in Rocky Mount.
“It’s going to be difficult, but 1-1 would have been even more difficult,” Post 1 coach Aaron Rich said. “Like I told the guys before the game, all (Post 58) wanted was a split. If they get that, they win.”
Thanks to RBI singles from David Williams and Griffin Parker, Post 58 held a 2-1 lead after five innings. Shortstop Khalil Macklin narrowly missed a home run in the sixth, but the wind pushed it foul down the left-field line. It became one of many hard-hit balls that didn’t find fair territory for Post 58.
With Post 58 void of pitching after four games in five days, Will Edwards and Paschal Ammons held a powerful Post 1 lineup to one run through seven innings. Post 1 pitcher Blake Morgan nearly matched it, allowing two earned runs in six-plus innings.
Post 58 had a chance to break open the game in the seventh with no outs and runners on first and second, but Post 1 reliever Sam Duncan came in and bailed out his team with three consecutive outs, including a sacrifice bunt that failed to move up the runners.
Post 1 recorded three two-out hits in the top of the eighth, and Derrick Dabney’s RBI double to left-center field tied the game.
Duncan stalled two more at-bats with a runner in scoring position in the eighth, and the game stayed tied at two.
“Sam shuts the door down in the sixth inning, and we win the game because of that,” Rich said. “For him to come in and do it, that’s clutch.”
Macklin nearly made the play of the game in the ninth. With a ball in the hole between shortstop and third, Macklin back-handed the ball and tried to initiate a double play from the ground, but his throw went wide and advanced the runner to third.
The runner scored on a groundout during the next at-bat, and Post 1 had its lead.
“Like I told him, Khalil is probably the only athlete on the field that even gets to that ball,” Post 58 coach Hank Jones said. “I’ve heard (Rocky Mount Academy coach Pat) Smith say a whole bunch of times while evaluating players that kids like that make errors on balls that most kids don’t even touch.”
“If the baseball gods allowed me to have the ball hit to any one player, I’d have them hit it to (Macklin),” Jones added.
The positive for Post 58 is that its pitching staff now has been rested, or at least closer to it. Neither Edwards nor Ammons threw more than 55 pitches Monday.
Edwards said he thinks he could throw again as soon as tonight, if need be.
“I came out and tried to throw strikes and keep the ball in play for the four innings I was out there,” Edwards said. “I probably could go again for two or maybe three innings, even (tonight).”
In the loss, Jones said Post 58 might have found a strategy for keeping its pitching staff fresh and Post 1 off-balance.
“We may choose to continue to do what we’re doing, pitching guys one time through the order,” Jones said. “That worked pretty well (Tuesday) even if we didn’t win.”
Raleigh Post 1 3
Coleman-Pitt Post 58 2
P1 000 100 011 – 3 8 1
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org