The general thought coming into Monday’s pivotal third game between Cherryville Post 100 and Union County Post 535 was that the bats for both sides would come around.
The first two meetings in the best-of-five series had been won by shut out, with Union County taking Game 1 at Cherryville by a score of 7-0 and Post 100 also winning on the road with a 1-0 victory at Wingate University on Sunday.
But could the starting pitching from both sides remain as dominant moving forward through the pitching rotation?
The answer was yes.
Dalton Pence had just the outing head coach Bobby Reynolds was looking for, pitching five shut-out innings in Post 100’s 1-0 win over Union County on Monday to grab a 2-1 series lead heading to Wingate University for Game 4 on Tuesday.
The rising junior at Cherryville High School scattered seven Post 535 hits, walking only two and striking out six before giving way to Robbie Cowie in the top of the sixth inning.
After Brett Wiseman led off the sixth with a double and Jake Machado was hit by a pitch to put two runners aboard with nobody out, Reynolds decided to go to his closer with six outs remaining. The big righthander from Lincolnton and Catawba College answered the bell, striking out all three batters that he faced in the frame and keeping the inherited baserunners from advancing.
Then in the seventh, Cowie worked around an infield single by Matt Duggan and a base on balls to Steven Gonzalez to seal the win. The first out of the inning came on a 1 to 3 putout of Henry Jackson on a sacrifice bunt, before Cowie fanned Trevor Grant and Wiseman to end the game and give Cherryville (25-10) their first advantage in the series.
Pence and Cowie combined to give Cherryville their second 1-0 shutout win in as many nights, following Brent Walls complete-game, two-hit shutout on Sunday in Union County.
After Post 100 squandered a golden opportunity to take the early lead on back-to-back doubles with no outs from Wes Reynolds and Cowie in the bottom of the first inning, Cherryville finally broke the ice in the bottom of the sixth.
With two outs and nobody aboard, Levi Kiser was hit by a pitch. Kiser then stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch before Cowie’s run-scoring single down the left-field line got him home with the only run of the contest.
Union County (18-8) outhit Post 100 8 to 4, including three infield hits from Duggan in the leadoff spot. Henry Jackson added a pair of singles and Wiseman had a single and a double for Post 535, who was scheduled to host Game 4 on Tuesday night.
As for Cherryville, Cowie’s two hits and RBI led the way. Reynolds reached base on a double and a walk, and Zach Wilson added a base hit in the bottom of the sixth. Coleson Miller drew a pair of walks in two plate appearances.
Union County 000 000 0 - 0 8 0
Cherryville 000 001 x - 1 4 0
Game 4: Cherryville 3, Union County 2
Post 100 won their third-straight one-run game over Union County (18-9) with a 3-2 win Tuesday night at Wingate University, clinching the series 3-1 to advance to the Area IV Championship against the Gaston Braves.
Chris Moxley pitched 6-2/3 strong innings for the victory, before giving way to Robbie Cowie who picked up his second save in two nights.
For the first time in the series, Post 100 scored early. Wes Reynolds started the game with a double, then later scored on Samuel Duncan’s RBI base hit for a 1-0 lead.
Post 535 scored twice in the bottom of the second inning on a run-scoring double from Jake Machado and a RBI single by Dawson Connell to take a 2-1 lead.
But Cherryville (26-10) retook the lead for good in the top of the fifth. Luke Kiser dropped down a bunt single to start the inning and Reynolds followed with a walk.
After Cowie singled to load the bases, Colson Miller’s sacrifice fly scored Kiser to tie the game at two all. Duncan then delivered a run-scoring single that scored Reynolds with the go-ahead run before Cowie was thrown out at the plate.
With the win, Post 100 will take on the Gaston Braves in a one-game playoff that is tentatively scheduled for Saturday night at Fraley Field in Cherryville at 7 p.m. Both Cherryville and Gaston will be in the eight -team field in the state tournament that gets underway on July 26. Union County will face Mint Hill in a one-game playoff for the final berth in the tournament.
American Legion Baseball Roundup
Area IV Playoffs - Semifinal Round
Cherryville 3, Union County 2 (Cherryville wins series 3-1)
Area IV Playoffs - Semifinal Round
Cherryville 1, Union County 0
Gaston Braves 14, Mint Hill 4 (6 inn.) (Gaston wins series 3-0)