By KEITH SPENCE
WILSON — It wasn’t a very good Sunday for Lincoln County Post 455 at the American Legion N.C. state tournament.
First, it was humbled by defending state champion Wilmington Post 10 13-1 in an early morning contest that was postponed from the night before. Then later in the day, the Cardinals dug themselves an early six-run deficit from which they never recovered and were eliminated by Area III runner-up Kernersville Post 36 12-0 at Wilson’s Fleming Stadium. Both losses were mercy-rule shortened, seven-inning affairs.
Post 455, making its first appearance in history in the state tournament, finished the season with a 21-16 record. Lincoln County did win its opening state tournament game Friday with a 5-3 victory over Area III champion Randolph County, which eliminated Shelby Post 82 on Sunday.
“I have no explanation for what happened today,” said Cardinals coach Bruce Bolick, whose team was outscored 25-1 on Sunday. “We’ve been an up-and-down team all season and we picked the worst possible time to play two of the worst games we’ve played all year.”
Against Kernersville (31-9), Post 455 fell behind 6-0 after just half an inning. Left-hander David Scoggins, making his first pitching appearance since a July 13 second round series-clinching victory over Caldwell County, lasted just two-thirds of an inning, allowing two hits, four walks and all six Post 36 runs.
“David’s been away at summer school at Liberty (University) and he’s been on a throwing program,” Bolick said. “He had exams this week and I don’t know if that played a part, but he definitely wasn’t his usual self. He’s normally got great control, just not today.”
Scoggins wasn’t the only Post 455 pitcher to take it on the chin. Four Cardinals hurlers were pounded for 11 Kernersville hits. Blue cam-clad Post 36 also took advantage of nine walks, two hit batters and a pair of Lincoln County errors. And it could have been worse.
Kernersville managed at least one hit in every inning and left 10 on base. At least two Post 36 batters reached base in all seven innings.
“Both games were very similar,” Bolick said. “Our pitchers came out and couldn’t find the plate, we gave up too many walks, and got behind early. We played and pitched very well Friday (against Randolph County), but today was just a total reversal.”
On the flip side, Kernersville pitchers Drew Wilson, Ryan Smith and Matt French combined to limit Post 455 to just four hits — a fourth-inning single by Jacob Hoover, a fifth-inning infield base hit by Darin Salter, Danny Sullivan’s sixth-inning single, and a base hit by Bryan Seymour in the seventh.
Earlier in the day, Lincoln County managed just three hits against Wilmington (27-1), which won its 26th consecutive game of the season.
Wilmington starter Joe O’Donnell, who’s headed to N.C. State to play baseball, took a perfect game into the fifth inning before yielding a two-out bunt single to Bradley Hallman.
Randal Ortiz drove home the Cardinals’ only run with a sixth-inning base hit.
Six players finished their Post 455 careers on Sunday: Scoggins, Hoover, Ortiz, Sullivan, Salter and Hayden Deal.
“This entire team, and those six young men especially, have a lot to be proud of,” Bolick said. “Overall it was a great season, regardless of how it ended.”
Lincoln County 5, Randolph County 3: Behind their ace Justin Norton, the Cardinals opened their inaugural trip to the state’s eight-team legion baseball tournament with a win over the Area III champion.
The right-hander gave up three runs, one earned, on nine hits, walked two and struck out six.
Post 455 scored three runs in the seventh inning to rally for the win. Jacob Hoover drove in a run and Bradley Hallman drove in two.