WILSON - Ah! American Legion baseball in the stifling Friday night heat.
Mix in the overheated environment with the festering Wilson-Rocky Mount rivalry, and about anything can happen. And plenty did happen before the lights shut down well over four hours later in Fleming Stadium.
After four lead changes and two ties, Rocky Mount claimed the marathon 16-12 to clinch regular-season Area One East Division North Conference supremacy. Post 58 completed a sweep of the three-game, regular-season series in climbing to 11-1 in the conference and 15-5 overall.
Post 13 sank to 8-6 in the conference and 10-9 overall. Wilson ends league play with a test at Ahoskie this evening.
After 28 runs, 30 hits, six errors, eight stolen bases, 10 walks, seven wild pitches, three passed balls and numerous delays, the outcome was settled.
Starting Rocky Mount catcher Spencer Ramsey and his replacement, Jeremy Sloop, had to leave the game because of problems with the heat.
Tempers flared. The bickering began with an exchange between Post 13 catcher Logan Butts and Rocky Mount base runner Khalil Macklin. Along the third-base line, an exchange occurred between Rocky Mount head coach Hank Jones and fans. Players from both teams emerged from their respective dugouts.
Then, to start the top of the sixth inning, Butts and home-plate umpire Don Spiers were involved in an exchange. Butts was ejected and, thus, will not be eligible to play in today’s conference finale at Ahoskie. Witnessing the proceedings was Area One Commissioner Bob Figulski of Cary.
Wilson changed pitchers after one batter in the top half of the eighth inning and that’s when home-plate umpire Spiers collapsed from heat exhaustion, received emergency treatment and was transported to the hospital.
Base umpire Scott Simpson then agreed to assume duties behind the plate. The proceedings were delayed several minutes as Simpson collected his behind-the-plate gear. Former high school and college baseball umpire Don Johnson, who has been inactive for a couple of years, agreed to serve as the base umpire.
Play resumed and Post 58 erased a 12-11 deficit with two runs in the top half of the eighth. The tying run scored on a wild pitch and the go-ahead run on a passed ball. Rocky Mount added three insurance runs in the top half of the ninth.
Right-hander Jordan Taylor, the third Rocky Mount pitcher, worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth and then retired Wilson in order in the ninth to notch the save and preserve the win for right-hander Jeremy Trevathan, who relieved starter Cam Webb.
Left-hander Matt Ballance, the third of four Wilson pitchers, took the loss. Each team collected 15 hits.
Rocky Mount right fielder Jonathan Aparicio batted 4 for 6, scored twice and drove in three runs. Designated hitter Matthew Berry, third baseman Jeremy Lucas and Sloop each rapped two hits. Lucas delivered the biggest Rocky Mount hit — a three-run double in the fifth.
For Post 13, shortstop Cory Nygard and second baseman Spencer Boykin each drilled three hits. Center fielder Parker Lamm, Butts, first baseman Nathan Boykin and designated hitter Charlie Vaughan contributed two hits each. Butts drove in three runs. Nygard and Parker Lamm each scored three times and Parker Lamm had two RBIs.
Nathan Boykin hammered a bases-loaded, three-run double in the fourth to snap a 6-6 deadlock and stake Wilson to its biggest lead of 9-6. But Rocky Mount benefited from three consecutive walks and Lucas’ double to retaliate with five runs the top half of the next inning.
Spectators left grumbling and seeking air-conditioning.
“I mean to tell you, this is pitiful,” remarked one spectator as he climbed into his car.
Maybe it was just too danged hot.