06/14/04 — Wayne County tops Wilmington, wins own Legion Tournament

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Wayne County tops Wilmington, wins own Legion Tournament

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on June 14, 2004 1:56 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- "Who are these guys?"

Second-year Wayne County Post 11 skipper Brad Reaves couldn't help but wonder who wore those bright yellow tops and blue-sleeved jerseys Sunday evening against rival Wilmington Post 10. All 18 players seemed tuned into the game and hunger gleamed in each of their eyes.

That hunger and desire never wavered when Post 10 took a four-run lead in the third. Wayne County answered in sterling fashion and tied the game in the same inning -- much to the delite of a partisan crowd at Scarborough Field. The mid-game momentum increased Post 11's energy level as it eventually triumped 8-4 in its inaugural invitational tournament at Mount Olive College.

"I don't know what was going on with this crew tonight, but when we sat down the first inning there was a different team on our bench," Reaves said. "I don't know where they came from. It wasn't the same team we saw the first six or seven games.

"Coming back from four runs down was big, but these guys were ready to play when they came out here tonight."

Wayne County threatened to score in each of the first two innings. However, Post 11 left a runner aboard in the first and hit into a crucial rally-killing double play in the second. Reaves was also concerned when a player failed to properly execute a bunt attempt.

Wilmington, which leads the all-time series 41-21, finally got to Post 11 right-hander Brett Butts in the third. Butts issued a one-out walk to Stephen Capps, who moved into scoring position on John Gerdes' sacrifice bunt. Mike Causey followed with an infield single and an infield error allowed Capps to score for the 1-0 lead.

Mike Nolan plated Causey with a single. Daniel Barker capped the four-run uprising with two-RBI triple into the left center field gap.

"I know we kicked it around, and we've got to get a little better at that," Reaves said. "I think part of it is we're not getting the ground balls we should be getting. We hadn't had any ground balls (practice) in several days now. That four-run lead was okay, but we were ready to play."

Post 11 responded to Post 10's challenge.

Jesse Lancaster singled, Philip Pennington walked and Jes Snyder added a base hit to load the bases. Erik Lovett cleared the bags with a double that bounced just below the yellow protective fence covering right center field. It was Lovett's 10th extra-base hit of the season and boosted his RBI total to 19.

The three-run jolt chased Wilmington right-hander Chris Bass from the mound. Lovett scurried home for the 4-4 tie on the next pitch, a wild throw in the dirt from reliever Hal Blake.

Reaves went back to a strategy that proved effective last season. He called hard-throwing Philip Cunningham from the bullpen and the second-year Legion player did his job. The Charles B. Aycock graduate surrendered base hits in each of the fourth and fifth innings, but never faltered.

Cunningham retired the final nine batters he faced, including six by strikeout. He climbed to 2-0 this season and hasn't lost in eight decisions in the past two years combined.

"Last year we used him to close early and I don't know if we gave him a start until late in the year," Reaves said. "I think Cunningham has been tired. We had a little talk last week after the New Bern game. We talked about all the innings he threw in high school this year and about getting him some rest.

"Any time that you can run a youngun out there who can fill up the strike zone and has got the stuff he's got, you're in pretty good shape. When I gave him the ball tonight he was going to finish it if we got him the lead; felt like it was over because he is a gamer."

Wayne County (9-2) finally got Cunningham a cushion in the sixth.

Garrett Sutton fell behind 0-2 in the count against left-hander Kyle Lewis. Sutton fouled off numerous pitches, worked his way to a 3-2 count and earned a walk. Lancaster sacrificed Sutton to second. Pennington drove home Sutton with a two-strike single up the middle for a 5-4 lead.

Snyder reached base on an error, setting the table for Lovett. Lovett fell behind 1-2 in the count against Lewis, whose fourth pitch was an inside fastball. Lovett turned on it and hit the scoreboard in right center field, giving him a three-run home run and five total RBI for the evening. In three Legion seasons, Lovett has belted 19 home runs and accounted for 103 RBI.

"We had some very good at-bats and Lovett fought off some tough pitches," Reaves said. "I knew they were going to throw a lot of pitchers, but when you can get into seven or eight pitches (in an at-bat) and get into their arms, you're going to get into the bullpen.

"When we loaded the bases, I felt pretty good with Lovett at the plate."

Post 11 remained unbeaten in seven home games and continues play tonight at Garner.

2004 Wayne County Post 11

American Legion

Baseball Invitational

(at Mount Olive College)

Championship game

Wilmington 004 000 0 -- 4 6 4

Wayne County 004 004 x -- 8 8 3

Leading hitters -- Wilmington -- Mike Causey 2-2; Mike Nolan 1-3, RBI; Daniel Barker 1-3, 3B, 2 RBI; Drew Matthews 1-3; Jason Watson 1-3. Wayne County -- Philip Pennington 1-3, RBI; Jes Snyder 2-4; Erik Lovett 2-4, 2B, HR, 5 RBI; Todd MacCoy 1-4, 2B; Garrett Davis 1-2; Jesse Lancaster 1-1.


Wilmington Post 10

Bass 2 4 4 4 2 1

Blake 2 0 0 0 1 0

Windham 1 1 0 0 1 0

Lewis (L) 1Ú3 3 4 3 2 0

R. Edens 2Ú3 0 0 0 0 0

Wayne County Post 11

Butts 4 4 4 0 2 1

Cunningham (W, 2-0) 4 2 0 0 0 7