At least that’s the way head coach Ronnie Battle sees it.
Rocky Mount Post 58 finally started hitting the ball late with runners in scoring position while Kinston never could, which resulted in a 6-3 win Thursday night and put Rocky Mount up 2-0 in the best-of-five series which shifts back there tonight for Game 3.
“We hindered ourselves because we had opportunities,” Battle said, whose team went 3-for-18 with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base. “We had opportunities and couldn’t do anything.”
Post 43 sure had its chances alright, but so did Post 58, which went 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position prior to the seventh inning. The only difference was Rocky Mount’s untimely hitting issues ended after the sixth.
Tied at 2, Post 58 ripped off three straight hits to start the seventh and broke the tie on a sacrifice fly to left by Spencer Bell that scored Thomas Berry.
In the eighth, two walks issued by reliever Matt Jones were cashed in by Berry when his opposite-field double got down into the right-field corner for a 5-2 lead.
Matthew Berry’s RBI groundout plated the other Berry in the inning, who reached third on a wild pitch from Mike Wetherington and gave Post 58 a comfortable 6-2 lead.
The eventual winning team went 3-for-8 with runners at second and/or third over the final three frames.
“We are an offensive team and we know we can hit the ball,” Battle said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
At the start, the game looked as if it could go on forever. Each team put up a run in both the first and second innings, and from there their inability to drive home teammates took hold.
Rocky Mount (21-5) left the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings and stranded two more in the fourth, largely in part to Kinston starter Patrick DuBose’s ability to make a pitch when it counted.
DuBose worked his way around a double and two walks in the third, a lead-off single and a walk in the fourth, and another single sandwiched between a pair of walks in the fifth.
Although saddled with the loss, DuBose pitched well enough to win but wasn’t given any run support. In six innings, he gave up three runs on seven hits, seven walks and struck out six.
“That was really frustrating, that (DuBose) was waiting patiently, knowing we were going to score,” Battle said. “You’re right, Patrick pitched very well. He pitched well enough that he should have walked away with a victory.”
Rocky Mount starter Parker Helms had an eerily similar outing, but where DuBose wasn’t given any offense Helms stayed around just long enough for Post 58 to get going.
Helms went one more inning, gave up one more hit and allowed one less run, walked only two and fanned eight.
Tyler Potter’s RBI single to left in the first and Brad Hunter’s RBI hit to the same spot in the second gave Kinston (14-8) its two runs early and countered Mike Smith’s excuse-me solo home run which barely cleared the short porch in left field and gave Rocky Mount a 2-1 lead.
From then until the seventh, there were plenty of hits and plenty of drama in the 3-hour, 22-minute marathon, including Post 58’s star hitter Collins Cuthrell being ejected following a strikeout swinging to end the sixth.
There were also plenty of runners left on base. But where Rocky Mount finally got things going, Post 43 never did and is stuck in an 0-2 hole facing elimination tonight.
“We hurt ourselves because the ballgame should have been us ahead and probably going into the ninth inning,” Battle said. “It should have been them coming back instead of us.
“We haven’t hit the ball at all against them in the last two ballgames. That’s why we’re down 0-2.”
Post 58’s Bill Clark got the two-out save in the ninth. … Kinston loaded the bases in the ninth with one out before Clark came on. He promptly got Potter to ground into a fielder’s choice at second. … Post 43 left 11 on base while Post 58 stranded 12. … Game 3 is tonight at Gryphon Stadium in Rocky Mount at 7. Game 4, if necessary, will be at Kinston High at 7 p.m. Saturday. … Cuthrell will not be allowed to play in tonight’s game due to his ejection. … Helms took a line drive from Ty Eason off the knee to start the seventh. He stayed in to finish the inning. … Wetherington pitched a 1-2-3 scoreless ninth for Kinston, it’s only such frame. ... In the Area I West Final Series , Cary beat Clayton 12-3 Wednesday eveving to go up 2-1.
AMERICAN LEGION BASEBALL
AREA I EAST FINAL SERIES
@ Viking Field, Kinston HS, Kinston
Rocky Mount Post 58 6, Kinston Post 43 3
Post 58 110 000 130— 6 9 1
Post 43 110 000 001— 3 12 1
WP - Parker Helms (6-0, 7IP, 8H, 2R, 1ER, 3BB, 8K); LP - Parker Dubose (6IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 7BB, 7K).
Leading Post 58 hitters: Thomas Berry 2-4, 2B, 3 RBI, Matthew Berry 2-5, RBI; Spencer Bell 1-3, RBI; Mike Smith 1-4, HR, RBI; T.J. Taylor 1-2, 2B, 2R.
Records: Post 58 21-5; Post 43 14-8