I have to say I was a little surprised at the ease with which Wilson Post 13 rattled Rocky Mount Post 58 pitching Sunday night in Wilson's 14-9 win in the first game of their American Legion baseball Area One Eastern Division finals series.
Post 13 slammed 18 hits, including a season-best 5-for-5 night by designated hitter Zac Crumpler, who is coming off his redshirt freshman season at Barton College. Crumpler's Bulldogs — and former Fike High School — teammate Bentley Massey did the job on the mound for Wilson even though he wasn't overpowering. Massey — who was shaky in his last outing, a 9-4 win over Kinston Post 43 in game 2 of the previous series — managed to get through 7 1/3 innings with just five hits allowed. Rocky Mount, which had been averaging almost 16 runs per game at home this season, couldn't get the balls to fall Sunday at Northern Nash High School. Several times, Post 58 batters lasered shots off Massey but Wilson outfielders Seth Wiggs, David Gibbons and Zack Lee came up with the catches.
And Wilson just continued its hit parade, nicking Post 58 starter Dillon Cockrell, who suffered his first loss, and two more pitchers for at least a run in seven of nine innings.Wilson got a hit in every inning but the third and went 7 for 21 with runners in scoring position.
Plus, Wilson's only error — on a pickoff throw to first base in the first inning — allowed an unearned run to score but that was it.
Post 13 had to win this game to have a shot to win this series. Rocky Mount pitching, I am told, isn't its strong suit but a win against Cockrell, Post 58's No. 1 starter, has to help Wilson's confidence, especially with its No. 1, Justin Nygard, only available for one start in this series.
Right-hander Kyle Shields will get the call Monday night at Fike High School with Brandon Denton likely to start for Rocky Mount. Wilson's game 3 starter is anyone's guess with Richard Carr throwing seven innings in game 4 against Kinston on Thursday night.
Even if Carr pitches Tuesday on three days rest, Post 13 head coach Rusty Dail is going to have to look for someone else to help out. Massey threw 102 pitches Sunday and could be ready for game 5 but that means Nygard will have to go Wednesday.
Mitchell Wheeler has been a serviceable bullpen option for Wilson but he was taken to task in the ninth inning by some frustrated Rocky Mount hitters. Other mound options could be Tripp Sauls, Chris Johnson or even Zack Lee, who has pitched very little this summer despite a solid spring at Hunt.
As Lee said, almost too obviously, following Sunday's game: "We outscored 'em and that's what we're going to have to do every game this series."
Wilson might have to hit well to keep up with Rocky Mount but a couple more strong pitching performances could be what it needs to advance to its first Area One championship series since 1990.