Legion Baseball: Wild 9th inning rally sends Post 87 to third round
Post 87 has faced an uphill climb all series long in the second round of the playoffs. Then, when Kernersville put what must have seemed like a mountain before them in the fifth and deciding game, they scaled up and over in dramatic fashion.
Down two in the bottom of the ninth Thursday at Finch Field, the HiToms somehow found a way to score three runs. Evan Edwards finished off the improbable comeback, smacking a single to left-center to plate teammate Zach McLean, setting off a wild celebration at home plate that made its way to first base where Edwards was mobbed.
The victory – Post 87s third straight by a single run – puts the comeback kids into the third round where they will face Mooresville beginning today at Finch Field. Edwards was thrilled to have gotten them there.
“It feels great,” he said. “I was just looking to get a hit somewhere, get on base. I was just going up there and hitting, trying to get something on the ground – get something through and get on base. It happened to work out.”
Kernersville appeared to be sitting good when fortunes began to go their way in the eighth. They trailed 6-5 entering the frame, but left with a two-run lead. After a Ben White leadoff single, Stephen Hemrick hit a ground ball to second base that was perfect for a double play. But on the last hop before reaching second baseman Hayden Manuel, the ball took off and sailed over Manuel's head. Three batters later Bump Martin lined a double to the wall that scored two, then Mason Striplin knocked Martin in for an insurance run.
After a 1-2-3 bottom half of the eighth for Post 87, they brought the heart of the order up in the ninth. Colin Rosenbaum and Ryan Hedrick reached on infield errors. After a McLean single, the bases were loaded with nobody out. The rally continued when Levi Gesell tied the game with a two-RBI single to center. With the winning run now on second, Edwards stepped in. He sent a ball to the gap as McLean hesitated to be sure the ball dropped. Rounding third he was waved home by Shore who chased him to the plate. McLean scored safely, ending a series that had twists and turns around every corner.
“If there are baseball gods they smiled on us tonight,” said Shore. “It would have been easy to throw in the towel after that bad hop. That double play clears the bases and we strike out the next guy. They do not even score those three runs.
“When we met right here before the bottom of the ninth I said, 'Guys, look at the scoreboard. It's your choice right now. Three outs or three runs – you choose.' I walked off. They didn't get a single out and scored three runs.”
Jubilation on one side of the diamond was balanced by heartache on the other. The Devil Dogs were so close to celebrating themselves, but in the end it was not meant to be.
“It is a tough pill to swallow,” said Post 36 coach Chad Loflin. “Right now I just hate it for my kids. But I am proud of my kids. Unbelievable series. I do not know of any series ever that has been like this. It was back and forth and a lot of guts on both sides.”
Gesell paced the Post 87 offense with two hits. Martin had a nice night for Kernersville with three hits and three RBIs. Drew Wilson added two hits for the Devil Dogs who finish their season at 23-11. Trevor Gay picked up the win tossing three innings of relief.
The best-of-five series with Mooresville will alternate each night with games 1,3 and 5 being in Thomasville.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.