05/23/05 — Post 11 wins pair in Wilmington

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Post 11 wins pair in Wilmington

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on May 23, 2005 2:13 PM

WILMINGTON -- Two right-handed pitchers emerged victorious in their American Legion debut Sunday afternoon at Buck Hardee Field.

Brandon Price, a sophomore at Charles B. Aycock, appeared in middle relief and helped Wayne County edge Sumter (S.C.) Post 15 by a 4-3 count.

In the nightcap, Southern Wayne's T.J. Hinson rebounded from a sluggish start as Post 11 came from behind and dealt Wilmington Post 10 a 6-3 loss.

The doubleheader sweep left Wayne County 2-0.

Third-year Post 11 manager Brad Reaves employed two different lineups during the non-division contest. He used five pitchers, including three returnees off last year's Area I East Division championship team.

But he couldn't have been more pleased with Price and Hinson, who each kept their poise in critical situations.

"Just a sophomore, (Brandon) goes up there and throws strikes," said Reaves. "He's going to be pretty good, though. He's going to be a big part of our pitching staff."

Price replaced left-handed starter Grant Sasser, who yielded two hits and struck out three in Post 11's season-opening contest.

Working with a 4-0 lead, Price encountered trouble in the fifth when his defense bobbled a routine ground ball that could have led to a rally-killing double play. Sumter capitalized on the mistake and

scratched for two runs before Price induced a groundout, and finished the inning with a strikeout.

Garrett Davis relieved Price after the fifth and surrendered an unearned run on Post 11's third error of the contest. However, the rising junior at Aycock settled down. He pitched a perfect seventh and retired the final five batters he faced overall.

Wayne County built a 4-0 lead on five hits and three Sumter errors. Lead-off batter Jesse Lancaster went 2-for-3 and scored twice. Davis turned in a 1-for-3 effort with two RBI -- one each in the first and third innings. An infield throwing error and a passed ball allowed Post 11 to plate two more runs.

First baseman Airlon Vinson paced the defense with nine putouts and one assist. Catcher Bennett Jeffreys supplied five putouts -- all strikeouts.

Errors were nearly Wayne County's undoing in the second game.

Five defensive miscues enabled Wilmington Post 10 to claim a three-run lead. But the game's momentum quickly shifted due to two double plays.

The second twin-killing silenced a potential run-scoring inning.

Post 10 attempted a squeeze bunt with Ryan Miller at the plate and teammate George Gray got caught in a rundown. Catcher David Smeltzer threw to Matthew Holloman, who chased Gray back toward Hinson. Gray reversed his direction when Hinson tossed the ball to Lancaster, who tagged Gray out after he slipped running back to third.

Meanwhile, George Bryan got tangled up between second and third. Lancaster charged toward Bryan, who like Gray, slipped heading back to second.

"Any time you do something like that, you take the wind out of their sails," Reaves said.

A relieved Hinson gained some confidence and retired five consecutive batters before surrendering a two-out single to Samson Williams. Gray belted a hard, diving liner to center field that Garrett Sutton

snagged to end the inning.

"T.J. is normally a slow starter and I've seen that all year," said Reaves. "He gets better as he goes. That's something that we have to address because I think it's in his preparation before game time. I thought he settled down and threw the ball good."

Hinson walked two, struck out one and gave up three hits in a five-inning stint. Holloman relieved Hinson and threw a perfect sixth and seventh en route to the save.

Vinson paced Post 11 with three hits and two RBI in four plate appearances. The left-hander tied the game at 3-3 with a backside, two-strike single which scored Massey.

"You would have thought he was playing us this year in high school because we couldn't get him out," said Reaves, who served as an assistant coach at Southern Wayne.

Wayne County capitalized on two errors and manufactured two key runs. Holloman, who reached on a bunt fielder's choice, scooted home on Vinson's third base hit of the game. Lancaster scored on Joey Moye's sacrifice fly to center field. Post 11's final run occurred in the sixth when Smeltzer crossed home on a two-out wild pitch by Wilmington reliever Alex Sholar.

Six of nine starters contributed at least one hit against Post 10. Smeltzer and second baseman Will Spence each drove in a run. All 16 players on the current roster either started or appeared in reserve roles during the two, seven-inning contests.

Reaves and his staff used the games to evaluate the players -- to see their strengths and weaknesses. He admitted that each hitter made the necessary adjustments at the plate and was glad to see the players battle through their mistakes.

"We got to see a lot of things today that we wanted to see," Reaves said. "We basically put two teams on the field. Austin (Hood) made adjustments well at the plate and I thought Jackson looked good in right field. The young guys got their feet wet."

Post 11 gets a nine-day break before its Area I East opener at Beaufort on May 31.