Wayne wins Legion tourney opener
By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on August 5, 2004 1:55 PM
SHELBY - After Caldwell County tied the score and erased a 4-0 Wayne County lead in the bottom of the fourth, Post 11 coach Brad Reaves had plenty of choices when deciding who would relieve starting pitcher Philip Cunningham.
His decision Wednesday evening to go with the experienced arm of Phillip Pennington paid off.
The rising Mount Olive College sophomore came on to toss 4 1/3 innings of scoreless middle relief, yielding just two hits while pitching around five walks as Wayne County emerged with a nail-biting, 5-4 win at Shelby's Hoyt S. Keeter Stadium.
The first round 2004 American Legion state tournament victory boosts Post 11 (28-7) into a quarterfinal match-up today against Kannapolis (31-8) at 8 p.m. Garner and Greensboro will meet at 5 p.m. in the other winner's bracket game.
Cunningham kept Caldwell County (34-8) off of the scoreboard through the first three innings before the 95-plus degree heat index seemed to affect the right-hander. With the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth, Cunningham walked T.J. Wilson as the fourth ball got to the backstop, allowing two runs to score.
Reaves immediately took the visibly-exhausted Cunningham out of the game.
"I thought Cunningham threw it great, the heat just got him. His legs just gave out," Reaves said. "We needed to come in with some experience. He (Pennington) just gutted it out."
Pennington (4-1) walked the first two batters he faced and also allowed an inherited runner to score on a wild pitch for Caldwell's fourth run. He settled down from there and didn't give up his first hit until the middle of the eighth.
"After I settled down and got comfortable with the mound, that's when I started throwing strikes," Pennington said. "I just had to slow down."
Post 11's Jesse Lancaster came on to pick up his second save of the postseason by pitching a scoreless ninth, but not before Caldwell County attempted to rally.
Post 29's Kody Hightower led off the bottom of the ninth with a single to left, but was cut down trying to steal by Wayne County catcher Josh Pate for the first out. Caldwell County coach Gary Hamby argued the call and was quickly tossed out of the game.
The first batter Lancaster faced, Josh Bentley, followed with a single and successfully stole second. Lancaster went on to retire Post 29's fourth and fifth hitters for the final two outs of the game.
Caldwell County stranded 10 runners, including seven in scoring position.
After seeing Post 29 erase its four-run lead, Wayne County bounced back in the fifth inning with the go-ahead run. With two outs and Caldwell reliever Alex Fairweather on the mound, Post 11's Airlon Vinson reached first safely when the Caldwell first baseman came off of the bag after receiving a throw from second. Vinson then scampered to second on a wild pitch. After Josh Pate walked, Todd MacCoy drove home Vinson from second with a double to right-center.
"When we got that call, I didn't think we would get many more," Vinson said. "I thought, 'we've got to get across.' I'm not the fastest guy in the world, but Todd came through and scored me."
Fairweather (5-3), who picked up the loss, didn't give up another hit as he and Russell Reid teamed to blank Post 11 in the final four innings.
Wayne County got on the board in the top of the first when right-fielder Erik Lovett slugged a 1-1 offering from Post 29 starter Chris Nigro deep into the trees beyond the right-field fence. Hitting in the second spot Wednesday, it was Lovett's team-leading 10th round-tripper of the season and his second of the postseason.
Lovett added his 15th double of the year in the third, then scored on Snyder's two-out single to center. Pate and MacCoy reached on back-to-back hits to start the fourth as Nigro recorded the first out on Austin Hood's sacrifice bunt. Fairweather came in to retire Matthew Holloman before Garrett Sutton smacked his second single in as many innings to drive home Pate and MacCoy.
Four of Wayne County's five runs came with two outs.
Wayne County had a pair of mental mistakes defensively and made one error, but otherwise played solid fundamental defense. Shortstop Jes Snyder had a team-high nine assists, including a 4-6-3 double play to end the fifth inning. Cunningham, Pennington and Lancaster combined to induce 14 ground outs. Rising sophomore Garrett Davis will start on the mound against Kannapolis tonight.
Notes: Wayne County's relief pitchers improved to 6-1 in the postseason É Reaves switched the traditional line-up and alternated right-handed and left-handed hitters through the first six spots in the batting order É Area I (Wayne County, Garner) and Area III (Kannapolis, Greensboro) teams were unbeaten WednesdayÉ Due to his ejection against Wayne County, Caldwell County coach Gary Hamby can not coach today against Laurinburg.
First round scores: Game 1 - Garner 10, Shelby 3; Game 2 - Greensboro 11, Pleasure Island 3; Game 3 - Kannapolis 4, Laurinburg 2.
2004 N.C. American Legion State Tournament
(at Hoyt S. Keeter Stadium, Shelby)
Wayne Co. 101 210 000 -- 5 8 1
Caldwell Co. 000 400 000 -- 4 9 2
Leading hitters - Wayne County - Erik Lovett 2-4, HR, 2B, 2 runs, RBI; Todd MacCoy 2-4, 2B; RBI; Garrett Sutton 2-3, 2 RBI; Jes Snyder 1-5, RBI. Caldwell County - Jesse Beane 2-3, RBI; T.J. Wilson 1-3, 3B, RBI; Matt Braswell 1-4, 2B. DP - Wayne County 1. LOB - Wayne County 8; Caldwell 10. SB - Sutton; Wilson 2; Hightower; Bentley. CS - Hightower. SH - Hood.
IP H R ER BB SO
3 2/3 6 4 4 1 2
Pennington (W, 4-1)
4 1/3 2 0 0 5 2
Lancaster (S, 2)
1 1 0 0 0 1
Nigro 3 1/3 6 4 4 0 1
Fairweather (L, 5-3)
4 2/3 2 1 0 4 4
Reid 1 0 0 0 0 0
Pennington faced one batter in the ninth. WP - Cunningham; Pennington; Fairweather. HBP - Beane (by Cunningham).
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