Legion Baseball: Kernersville puts Post 87 in 2-0 hole
Many eyes are on the Area III American Legion baseball second round series between Post 87 and Kernersville.
They may soon be directed elsewhere as Post 36 holds a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. With only one spot left for the state tournament to be held in Lexington, many believe the final slot could be filled by one of these two teams. After an 11-3 win Sunday and 2-1 victory Monday, Kernersville is in line to be that team.
With Team USA in town to host Japan Sunday, the teams had to wait until well after 8 p.m. to get started. Kernersville came ready while Post 87 was slow to get going. By the time the HiToms got themselves into the game, they trailed by seven runs and eventually fell 11-3. It was a lethargic effort from a team that had been burying its opponents.
“I told them we got beat in every facet of the game you can think of and the most important one was intensity,” said head coach Rob Shore. “Kudos to them. They showed up ready to play and we did not.”
Post 36 scored lone runs in the first and second innings for starting pitcher Drew Wilson. He helped himself in the first inning with a ground-rule double that drove in the run. On the mound he held a potent HiToms offense scoreless through five innings, while the offense continued to score runs.
Scoring four runs in the third, Kernersville built a 7-0 advantage that would not come close to being touched. Three hits and two costly errors by a normally sure-handed Post 87 defense suddenly had fans thinking the mercy rule might need to be used.
In the sixth the margin reached nine runs as Bump Martin and Mason Striplin tacked on RBIs.
If there is an offense in the league that can make up the difference it is the HiToms. They have big bats throughout the lineup and were able to pull two runs in the bottom of the sixth on RBI hits from Colin Rosenbaum and Cesar Trejo.
Again in the seventh Post 87 was primed to pull back runs, but an aggressive approach at the plate erased the chance. Loading the bases with only one out, Levi Gesell attacked the first pitch he saw. His grounder to the shortstop began an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Kernersville scored twice in the next half inning to make the missed opportunity hurt that much more.
“Two of the double plays we hit into were first pitches,” said Shore. “If we are swinging at the first pitch we need to make sure we are tattooing it and not hitting weak ground balls. There were opportunities for us to score more runs and we just did not do it.”
Martin tallied four of the Devil Dogs' 15 hits for the night. Rosenbaum collected three for the HiToms.
Shore did bring up an interesting stat following the contest.
“What I reminded our kids of is that the last three years, the team that won the first game lost the series. In 2011 we lost the first game and swept them, in 2012 we lost the first one and swept them, then last year we won the first one and ended up getting beat in five games.”
On Monday, Kernersville scored two runs on three hits in the fourth inning and made it stand. Post 87 made things interesting with a run in the ninth, but that left them one short and has put them in a 2-0 hole that will be tough to climb out of.
Game 3 is Tuesday at Kernersville. If the series makes it to a fourth and fifth game, they would be played Wednesday and Thursday at Finch Field.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.