By Tom Ham
WILSON - Two hot American Legion baseball teams collided for sole possession of the North Conference lead of Area One’s Eastern Division in Fleming Stadium on Wednesday evening.
But an ideal night for baseball turned into a cold, sobering occasion for a sloppy Wilson Post 13 team that was humbled by Rocky Mount, 12-2. The contest, scheduled for nine innings, was halted after seven because of the 10-run lead rule.
Both teams entered 3-0 in the conference. Overall, Rocky Mount, with its seventh consecutive win, climbed to 9-3. Post 13, winner of three straight and five of its last six, plunged to 7-5.
Coleman-Pitt Post 58 visits Wayne County this evening, before Wayne County comes to Wilson on Friday night at 7 in Fleming Stadium.
The score was knotted 1-1 when Post 13 left the bases loaded in the bottom of the second inning. Rocky Mount then reached starting — and losing — Wilson pitcher Ches Lamm for four runs in the top of the third, and boosted its lead to 12-2 with six runs in the top of the sixth.
Starting right-handed Rocky Mount pitcher Jeremy Sloop made certain that Wilson did not prolong the game past the seventh inning by striking out the side to complete his route-going performance.
“Our pitching wasn’t there,” lamented Post 13 head coach Rusty Dail. “We walked too many (seven) people. We put them in situations in which they capitalized.
“We threw the ball away a couple of times and fell apart. We became a different team. I told the guys that any team can play ahead but, to be a good team, we have to be able to play from behind. Maybe we can learn from this.”
Second-year Rocky Mount head coach Hank Jones was understandably pleased.
“I had seen Wilson play twice and consider them the team to beat in our conference,” Jones contended. “To come over here and get a win is a big deal for us. We started off (the season) kind of rough, but we are getting better ... It has been a process.”
Wilson answered Rocky Mount’s run in the first when shortstop Zach Houchins doubled some 400 feet to center field and scampered home on third baseman Mitchell Wheeler’s single.
But after wiggling out of the bases-loaded jam in the second, Sloop (3-1) stopped Post 13 on a pair of singles and an unearned run the last five innings. The Nash Central High product yielded six hits and one earned run while walking three and striking out seven.
Jones suggested Rocky Mount’s four-run third (5-1 lead) was pivotal for Sloop.
“That might have given him a little confidence,” Post 58’s head coach suggested, “and calmed him down a little bit.”
In the meantime, Lamm constantly fell behind in the count to Rocky Mount batters and threw 94 pitches in four innings — when he walked five and struck out five.
Also, Dail’s decision to issue two intentional walks backfired in the six-run sixth. Post 58 tallied two of its runs on bases-loaded walks.
Rocky Mount nicked four Post 13 pitchers for 12 hits. Shortstop Jon Naylor batted 3 for 5 and drove in two runs. First baseman Thomas Berry went 2 for 3 with two RBI1. Catcher Tyler Wooten and second baseman Spires Miller each contributed two hits. Post 58’s defense, especially the outfielders, made all the plays.
Center fielder Will Bynum, a product of Greene Central High and Mount Olive College, was the only Wilson hitter with a pair of base knocks.
Dail described Post 58 as a “scrappy little team.” However, Jones indicates his Post 58 squad is not about to be deceived by Wednesday night’s success.
“When they come to Rocky Mount, we know we’ve got to play our best,” he cautioned.
(Thanks to Wilson Times sports editor Paul Durham for allowing me to reprint this article).