Burke County Post 21 dropped two games to Cleveland County Post 82 in an American Legion Baseball marathon doubleheader Tuesday at Morganton’s Shuey Park.
Post 21 fell behind early in both N.C. Area IV West games before mounting rallies that fell just short with the opener ending on a call at the plate and the nightcap ending with a walkoff passed ball in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Cleveland County 7, Burke County 6
The evening’s first contest was a wild back-and-forth affair featuring a little bit of everything from wild throws and unpredictable hops to a controversial call down the stretch that kept the game from going into extra innings.
Post 82 opened a 3-1 lead in the first inning and advanced courtesy runner Ethan Hayes into scoring position in the second with no outs. Facing the top of Cleveland’s lineup, Post 21 pitcher Mason Mozeley settled in, retiring two of the next three Post 82 batters to leave Hayes stranded. Mozeley would continue his solid pitching for two more innings, retiring six of the next seven Shelby batters. From the plate, he tied the game, scoring off a sacrifice from Chapel Matson after getting on base with an RBI double in the previous plate appearance.
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Burke County took a short lived, one-run lead in the bottom of the fourth on a wild play, but Shelby opened the fifth with two runs before Post 21 relief pitcher Matson took the mound with the bases loaded. Cleveland extended the lead to two in the inning and then added another run in the sixth before a two-RBI single from Mozeley in the bottom of the seventh cut the lead back to one.
A Post 82 error on the next play sent Braxton Hensley toward home, but he was ruled out on a controversial call that left Post 82 clinging to a 7-6 lead. Cleveland pitcher Boone Cartee struck out the final Burke County batter to end the game.
Mozeley led the way for Post 21, going 3 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs.
Cartee picked up a complete-game win for Cleveland County, giving up six runs off 11 hits.
Cleveland County 4, Burke County 3 (10 inn.’s)
Post 21 started the second game without Wes Smith, who suffered a wrist injury in the opener. According to head coach Ron Swink, Smith’s wrist had been bothering him before the game, but he exacerbated the injury sliding into second base in the sixth inning.
Cleveland County took the momentum from its victory into the second game with Colby Putnam knocking in a run on an RBI double to left in the first inning. Both sides settled into a pitcher’s duel after that with neither team able to mount any meaningful offense. In bottom of the fifth, Post 82’s Hayes hit a leadoff triple off the bench and then scored on a sacrifice fly to right, giving Cleveland County a 2-0 lead.
Matson replaced starting pitcher Brayson Buff, who gave up two runs off five hits in four innings of work. Matson retired the next two batters but allowed an RBI single before Post 82’s Colby Humphries got caught trying to steal second for the inning’s third out.
Buff finally broke the Post 21 scoring drought in the sixth inning, driving Mozeley in on a sacrifice fly and making the score 3-1.
Post 82 starting pitcher Zac Flonter left the game after completing the sixth inning. He gave up just one run on one hit and struck out seven Burke County batters.
Burke took advantage of Cleveland relief pitcher Colby Putnam in the seventh with a pair of doubles,scoring Barger Shook and putting Mozeley on second base. Moments later, two wild pitches sent him home, forcing Post 82 into the bottom of the seventh. Shelby failed to answer the rally and pitching continued to dominate as the game went into extra innings.
In the top of the 10th, Matson and Colin Eckard of Post 21 were left stranded on base, leaving the score tied at 3-3. In the bottom of the inning, Connor Gantt hit a leadoff single for Cleveland County and then stole second base. After another hit advanced him to third, a passed ball from Post 21 rolled into the backstop, allowing Gantt to score the winning run and end the game.
Burke County finishes the regular season with a 6-10 overall record and a 6-8 mark in N.C. Area IV West play. The Area IV playoffs are scheduled to begin on Saturday.
Jason Koon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.