By RYAN HERMAN
DENVER –– The purpose of the Western Piedmont Instructional League is to teach.
East Lincoln learned how to beat Bunker Hill the second time around.
Alec Burleson went 4-for-4 across a pair of five-innings games, Austin Buchanan was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and the Mustangs knocked off the Bears 6-3 in Game 2 on Tuesday after falling 4-1 in Game 1.
The league includes area teams composed of rising ninth-12th graders, and each playing date consists of two five-inning games.
The teams –– Alexander Central, Bunker Hill, East Burke, East Lincoln, Fred T. Foard, Hickory, Maiden, Newton-Conover, St. Stephens, Valdese Draughn, Watauga, West Caldwell and West Lincoln –– can substitute freely, use an extra hitter in the lineup, and there are no playoffs when the short season ends later this month.
East Lincoln (6-2) opened the season by winning its first four games, but was handed its first loss over the weekend when it dropped the first game of a doubleheader with West Lincoln.
That trend continued on Tuesday when the Bears, fresh off their varsity team’s run at a state 2A title, got some nifty pitching from Garrett Hollar and the Mustangs had trouble with runners in scoring position.
Hollar pitched all five innings. He gave up one run on five hits, walked four and struck out five as East Lincoln went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and left the bases loaded in the first inning.
Burleson, who started the first game on the mound for the Mustangs, had three of those hits, including a double in the third inning. Buchanan followed the double by beating out a slow roller to the second baseman, which scored Nate Kinsch to make it 2-1.
Burleson moved to third on the base hit, and Buchanan swiped second during Trevor Childers’ at-bat. But Hollar retired Childers swinging and got Matthew Davis to ground out to the shortstop to end the threat.
Hollar worked a perfect fourth and worked around a walk and a two-out hit by Burleson to end the game.
Bunker Hill showed up to East Lincoln’s field with only 12 players, so it didn’t make any substitutions in Game 1. The Mustangs had 16, and they let as many play as they could.
Burleson gave up a two-out RBI double to Cooper Wray in the first, and retired the side in order in the second in his two innings of work. Logan Philemon began the third and walked the first two he faced followed by a bunt single, then gave up a run on a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Hayden McGraw.
An error and a bases loaded walk in the fourth led to two more runs charged to Philemon, who was relieved by his older brother, Carson, in the inning.
In Game 2 the Mustangs went right to work, getting runs off the bats of Burleson (double) and Buchanan for the early 2-1 lead. Buchanan then plated two on a double into the corner in right for a 4-3 lead in the third.
A wild pitch allowed a run to score in the fourth, then Evan Polowski, who singled, scored on Spencer Riddle’s RBI hit to go up 6-3 in the fifth.
Jarrett Lofton took over for Darren Martin with one down in the third, and threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings. He allowed a double to Justin Setzer in the fourth, and Kevin Robinson reached on an error in the fifth to account for Lofton’s only baserunners.
Wray’s ground ball in the first allowed the Bears to go up 1-0, and in the third a sac fly by Cole Ervin and an RBI double by Scotty Martin gave them a 3-2 lead.
Buchanan erased the lead with his double in the home-half of the inning.
The Mustangs are off until Monday, when they’ll travel to Fred T. Foard.
Notes: East Lincoln used 12 players in Game 2. … Carson Philemon walked and scored a run in the fourth in his only at-bat of Game 2. Brendan Gallagher singled and scored in the first. Kinsch and Zeke Hester had successful sacrifices in Game 2.