By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– Lincoln County Post 455 keeps rolling, and Cherryville Post 100 couldn’t do anything to stop it.
Danny Sullivan and Clay Hodges had four hits each, Nick Savoie homered and Justin Norton went the distance with 10 strikeouts as the Cardinals knocked off Post 100 7-3 Tuesday in the first game of their best-of-five Area IV American Legion semifinal series at East Lincoln High.
Game 2 is scheduled for today at 7 p.m. at Cherryville High’s Fraley Field. Lincoln County (18-11) won for the fifth straight time. It also has at least 14 hits in each of its last four games.
The Cardinals’ pitching hasn’t been too shabby, either.
“My team hitting, that’s what really gets me going. I have defense, plus offense,” Norton said. “If we just hit the ball all of our pitching will work.”
Meeting for the first time this season, the teams that both pull players from Lincoln County lived up to the billing of a solid series through the first few innings.
Cherryville (16-13) struck first on an RBI single by Tyler Shumaker in the top of the first inning.
It was just the second time in the last four games Post 455 has trailed.
Post 100 starter Brandon Alexander quieted the Cardinals through their first eight batters, but a double by J.T. Bowden in the third sparked a three-run inning that put them on top for good.
With the way Norton was dealing it was hard for the six-time defending Area IV champion to catch up.
“When it got to the middle innings it became the Justin Norton show,” Cherryville manager Bobby Reynolds said. “He commanded his splitter, he commanded his curveball and his fastball. That was a pretty good show right there that he put on.”
Hodges, Jacob Hoover and Bradley Hallman plated runs in third, and Hodges added another RBI hit in the fourth before Savoie scored on an error to go up 5-2.
Savoie’s solo shot sailed over the fence in left for a 6-2 lead through five, then Sullivan scored Hodges with a double up the middle after Hodges doubled to start the home-half of the sixth.
Lincoln County had just one more hit after Sullivan’s double –– a single by Hodges in the eighth. But that hit was its 14th of the game, giving it 62 total hits in its last four playoff games.
“I’m not one much for records or anything like that, but it’s a pretty good stretch,” Cardinals manager Bruce Bolick said.
“(The pitching and offense) compliment each other.”
Such was the case with Post 455 and Norton.
The North Lincoln graduate and future Catawba Valley Community College right-hander found his groove once he was given the lead.
After a lead-off single to Josh Beam in the fourth turned into a run when Brett Huff got caught in a rundown attempting to steal second, Norton retired 11 straight.
His streak was broken up by Derrick Brawn on a pinch-hit two-out single up the middle in the eighth.
Cody Dellinger singled to start the game and scored on Shumaker’s base hit. Beam walked in the ninth with one away then wound up scoring from second on a throwing error by Hallman at third.
Norton finished with two earned runs on four hits and walked two.
“I know I had one thing to do. I didn’t let it ride on me that much,” he said of starting the game out with an earned run.
“It was a fun game. I loved it.”
Alexander gave up five runs, four earned, on eight hits, walked two and struck out one in the loss.
Hodges scored three runs and drove in two while Sullivan scored once and drove in one. Savoie went 2-for-4 and scored twice and Bowden had two hits and scored a run.
Everyone in Post 455’s lineup reached base at least once.
“If we hit the ball like we did today I don’t think we’ll have a problem,” Norton said. “I’m pretty happy that we won tonight. I’m ready for tomorrow.”
Post 100 100 100 001––3 4 3
Post 455 003 211 00x––7 14 1
Alexander, Beam (5), Goins (8) and Jackson, Brawn (7); Norton and Bowden. W––Norton. L––Alexander.