HICKORY — The Burke County Post 21 American Legion Baseball team clawed its way back to .500 in N.C. Area IV West play with a shutout victory.
Visiting Post 21 toppled host Hickory Post 48 4-0 Monday at the Hickory Fairgrounds.
Burke County coach Ron Swink credited Ethan Willis’ pitching and the defense behind him for keeping the game at a scoreless tie until Post 21 finally took the lead with an unearned run in the fifth inning. Burke got the bats going for three more runs in the seventh frame to produce the final score.
“Willis walked a tightrope most innings,” Swink said.
In the first inning, Post 48 tallied a walk and two hits, but a Burke double play and an unsuccessful steal attempt by Hickory kept the visitors unblemished. The hosts collected two more hits in the second, but Willis got out of the jam and left those baserunners stranded.
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Hickory mounted another threat with two more hits and an error in the third, but Willis and the Post 21 defense again were up to the task to keep Post 48 off the board. Burke County counteracted another Hickory hit in the fourth frame with another double play.
Then, Post 48 tallied a hit and a walk in the fifth and a one-out double in the sixth, but again got no scoring out of that production.
Willis finally shut down Hickory without any trouble in the bottom of the seventh and final frame for the complete-game victory.
Post 21 (6-8, 6-6 N.C. Area IV West) got on the board in the fifth when Luke Bumgarner drew a walk, advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Barger Shook and scored when Braxton Hensley hit a two-out scorcher that was too hot for the Post 48 second baseman to handle.
The lead grew in the seventh as Shook singled and Colin Eckard tallied a pinch-hit single before Hensley plated both with a two-RBI double. Hensley moved to third on the throw in and scored on a Mason Mozeley double.
Burke County Post 21 returned home to Morganton’s Shuey Park to face Cleveland County Post 82 for a doubleheader Tuesday, the squad’s final two games of the regular season.
The N.C. Area IV playoffs are set to begin Saturday.
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