Garner completes Area One sweep
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on July 28, 2004 1:56 PM
GARNER -- The Area I championship remains in Wake County thanks to the efforts of Garner Post 232 hurler Leif Baker.
The right-hander yielded four hits in a complete-game shutout -- a 5-0 decision against Wayne County Post 11 on the Garner Senior High diamond Tuesday evening. Garner wrapped up the best-of-three series 2-0 and beat Post 11 for the third time in four meetings this season.
Baker earned his second victory against Wayne County this season and Garner remained unbeaten (9-0) in the playoffs.
"The boy did a good job and stayed around the plate all night," Post 11 coach Brad Reaves said. "I think the last two games we have played very uninspired baseball. I don't know if it's because we knew we were going (to the state tournament), but we've had absolutely no life.
"We haven't had a whole lot of life all year and I hope this taught us a lesson."
Post 11 endured its first shutout loss since falling 8-0 to rival Snow Hill Post 94 in game two of last year's Area I East finals. North Raleigh blanked Wayne County 4-0 in game two of their Area I championship series in 1996.
Baker escaped what could have been a disastrous first inning.
The former Polk County standout issued a lead-off walk to Jesse Lancaster and Erik Lovett reached on an infield error. Baker induced a fielder's choice for one out.
Lovett got hung up between second and third on a hit-and-run play and that led to the second out. Baker struck out Todd MacCoy to end the inning.
"We sort of got out of a jam right there, even though it was early," veteran coach Moe Barbour said. "I didn't want to get in the hole with them right to start with, not with (Philip) Cunningham on the mound. I knew they still had the young right-hander (Garrett Davis) sitting over there in the dugout.
"That was big for us."
Wayne County put runners aboard in the second, third and fourth innings. Garner's defense two turned two double plays during that stretch to keep Baker's shutout bid intact.
"If we get it done early, it's a different ball game," Reaves said. "Everybody has seen us all year and knows that one little thing gets us going. We didn't square up but two balls and that was in the eighth inning.
"When you don't square up but two balls all game, you're not going to score many runs."
Baker got into a groove and retired 12 of 14 batters, beginning with the double-play grounder in the fourth. He threw a perfect fifth and consistently worked the corners of the plate all evening.
Post 11 batters tried to pull the ball on numerous occasions, which led to seven infield ground outs. Baker also notched five strikeouts during that stretch and caught four hitters gazing at called third strikes.
"The last game he pitched, I took him out after two (innings)," Barbour said. "If he can get past those first couple of innings, he gets into a rhythm and works a little faster. He seems to do a whole lot better then.
"We made some plays behind him."
Wayne County's defense played solid behind Cunningham and Davis, who took over pitching duties in the sixth. MacCoy made a spectacular diving catch in left center field and denied Jesse Duke an extra-base hit, which could have led to a run in the fourth inning.
Lovett caught two deep fly balls near the fence in right field. First baseman Airlon Vinson collected nine putouts and two assists on defense.
Post 11's outfield did lose a fly ball in the lights, which led to Mark Carver's one-out double in the fifth. An infield error boosted Garner's advantage to 2-0 and a double steal led to Post 232's third run of the game.
"We've tried to be aggressive the last eight ball games and I think it's paid off for us," Barbour said.
Cunningham (3-2) surrendered three runs (two earned) on four hits and collected two strikeouts in five innings. Davis also gave up four hits and struck out three Post 232 batters during his four-inning stint.
Garner had eight hits -- two each from Carver and Mike Pullen. Pullen hit a solo home run in the second, which was just the eighth home run allowed by the Post 11 pitching staff this season.
Jes Snyder led Wayne County with two hits in four plate appearances. Jesse Lancaster and Garrett Sutton each contributed one hit.
"I'd like to have gone into it (state tournament) as a higher seed and into it on a positive note," Reaves said. "Maybe this will help us. You can never tell."
The teams get a week off before heading to Shelby for the 2004 N.C. American Legion Baseball State tournament. Wayne County (27-7) drew an opening-round contest against Area IV champion Caldwell County, while Garner (19-8) faces host Shelby.
2004 Area I
(at Garner HS)
Wayne County 000 000 000 -- 0 4 1
Garner 010 020 20x -- 5 8 2
Leading hitters -- Wayne County -- Jes Snyder 2-4; Jesse Lancaster 1-3; Garrett Sutton 1-3. Garner -- Mark Carver 2-3, 2 2Bs; Marc Locklear 1-4, RBI; Brandon Holmquist 1-4; Mike Pullen 2-3, HR, 2 RBI; Adam Hamrick 1-4; Trey Bailey 1-3.
DP -- Garner 2. LOB -- Wayne County 7, Garner 7. SH -- Medlin, Pullen. SB -- Carver, Locklear, Bailey.
IP H R ER BB SO
Wayne County Post 11
Cunningham (L, 3-2) 5 4 3 1 1 2
Davis 3 4 2 2 0 3
Garner Post 232
Baker (W) 9 4 0 0 4 7
WP -- Baker. HBP -- Carver (by Cunningham).
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