Post 100 will take on the Gaston Braves tonight in a one-game winner-take-all Area IV championship at Fraley Field in Cherryville at 7 p.m.
With both teams already qualifying for the North Carolina American Legion Baseball State Tournament that begins one week from today in Cherryville, it was decided that the single game for the area title would be good enough since they’re mainly playing for seeding, although a plaque will be presented to the Area IV champion.
The two teams did not meet in the regular season and seldom do, but there is a pretty good rivalry that has been built over the years through playoff series’ matchups.
The Gaston Braves and Cherryville have met on the diamond 52 times since 1997, with Post 100 holding a 30-22 advantage. They’ve squared off in an Area IV playoff series six times, with each team winning three. Gaston actually eliminated Cherryville from playoff contention three straight seasons from 2014-16, before Post 100 eliminated the Braves in 2017.
A 16-7 semifinal series-clinching win for Cherryville in 2017 at Belmont Abbey was the last time the two teams have met.
This season, the teams meet in the Area IV championship for the second time, and they went about getting to this point in somewhat different ways.
Cherryville rolled through their first-round series with Cleveland County, sweeping Post 155/82 three games to none, while outscoring them 35-4.
For the Gaston Braves, the first round wasn’t quite that easy.
Gaston lost their first two games in the opening round to Henderson County by scores of 9-6 and 9-2. They just missed getting swept by coming from behind late in game three for an 8-7 win to stay alive.
After taking a commanding 8-1 lead in Game 4 back at Henderson, the game was suspended due to rain. By Area IV Legion rules, the game was to be completed at South Point High School (home of Gaston) with Game 5 to follow if necessary.
However, when the game, or games, were rescheduled for the following day in Belmont, Henderson County did not have enough players to make the trip and was forced go forfeit the final two contests.
Since that series, the Braves have been a different team. Gaston defeated the number two team from the West, Asheville, three games to one to reach the semifinals. Then they took care of business in the semifinal round with a 3-0 sweep of Mint Hill to qualify for the state tournament.
Post 100’s second-round series with Gastonia Post 23 also lasted just three games, with Cherryville allowing just four runs in the sweep to advance to the semifinals.
And while the Post 100 bats didn’t produce a bunch of runs in their semifinal series with Union County, the pitching was phenomenal. After losing Game 1 of the series 7-0 and not scoring for the first 12 innings of the series, Cherryville scratched for a single run to win 1-0 and even the series.
Post 100 would win a second-straight 1-0 contest in Game 3, before outlasting Post 535 in Game 4 for a 3-2 win.
No matter the outcome of tonight’s game, both teams will be in next week’s state tournament.