SHELBYâ€” Garner`s Lief Baker proved to be the perfect foil for a hot team.
Baker pitched eight scoreless innings Sunday to lead Garner to a 4-0 victory over Caldwell County in the 15th and decisive game of the North Carolina American Legion Baseball Championship Tournament.
Caldwell forced a second game Sunday for the title with a 4-1 win over Garner, handing Post 232 its first loss of the tournament after three wins.Caldwell won five straight games out of the loser`s bracket after dropping its opener on Wednesday.
Baker used good control and location and an effective mix of pitches to cool off the Post 29 lineup. He entered the bottom of the ninth bidding for a complete game, but was lifted after giving up a leadoff single.
J.P. Primus, who earlier in the tournament pitched a one-hitter in a win over Kannapolis, came on and preserved the shutout, even though he had to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam with two outs.
Caldwell got the tying run to the plate, but Primus retired the final batter on a fly ball to right field.
In the post-game awards ceremony, Baker was named tournament MVP after picking up his second pitching win of the tournament.
Garner did all of its scoring in the first three innings and chased Caldwell starter Josh Leyshon.
Caldwell, bidding for its first state title since 2000, finished its season 39-9. Post 29 earned the right to play Garner for the title after winning a doubleheader on Saturday, 10-0 over Shelby and 7-4 over Kannapolis.
Garner (23-9) did not have to play Saturday after beating Kannapolis 2-0 Friday in the winner`s bracket final.
Post 232, which last won the state title in 1999, moves on to the Southeast Regional this week in Columbia, Tenn. Garner`s first opponent in the regional will be the state champion from Georgia on Thursday.
Shelby, the host team, won two games out of the loser`s bracket on Thursday and Friday, beating Pleasure Island and Wayne County by identical scores of 5-4. On Saturday, Post 82`s season ended with a blowout loss to Caldwell. Shelby finished its year 25-15.
The tournament drew excellent crowds throughout its five-day run at Shelby`s Veterans Field at Keeter Stadium.
by Mike Powell