BEAUFORT, N.C. — Ahead of Thursday’s postseason game, head coach Chip Gordon told the Hamlet Post 49 baseball team it needed to score early and often to even the series.
And No. 3 Hamlet answered the call, plastering the scoreboard with eight runs in the first inning en route to a 15-5 win over No. 2 Carteret Post 99.
Carrying over the late-game momentum from the night before, Hamlet belted a dozen hits from six different players, with four going for extra bases.
Ashton Phifer went 4-for-5 at the plate with three singles and a double. He added three runs batted in, tied with Jon Westbay for the game-high, and scored a run.
Seven players recorded at least one RBI, with Tristan Hunt, Hunter Meeds and Eythan Reynolds each driving in a pair of runs. Meeds, Westbay and Markey Purvis all finished with two hits.
The barrage of run support in the first inning gave starting pitcher Matthew Miller a sizable lead to work with. He earned his team-leading fifth win of the season, throwing 6.0 innings with five runs (two earned) on six hits and four strikeouts.
Gordon noted that Miller, “pitched well enough to win, he battled and stayed around the zone.” Another perk of Miller’s outing, he shared, was saving another arm in the bullpen.
“We had really good approaches at the plate and the guys listened to us after last night’s game,” Gordon said. “Everyone refocused and the guys decided to go out and play our style of baseball. We showed when we do things we’re supposed to do, we’re going to get results.
“The first inning was big for us and it set the tone,” he added. “We jumped on them early, the guys didn’t chase and we hit the ball up the middle. It was helpful for Matt to be comfortable with a big lead.”
Starting for Carteret was Wood Parker, who allowed eight runs on five hits and three walks in two-thirds of an inning.
A total of 13 batters visited the plate for Hamlet in the top of the first, as a walk to Hunter Huneycutt and two hit-by-pitches to J.D. Scarbrough and Markey Purvis loaded the bases with one away.
Jackson Kuhn’s patience paid off as he drew a bases-loaded walk to start the scoring. Meeds dug in next and delivered a two-RBI double to the gap in right field to build a three-run lead.
An error on a Westbay grounder to second base allowed Kuhn to score and Reynolds recorded an RBI with an infield single to shortstop.
In the nine hole, Phifer barreled up the first offering from Parker for a two-RBI line drive single to center field, breaking the game open 7-0.
Hamlet’s final run of the first came when Huneycutt (error) induced a double steal and gave Phifer time to score from third.
Carteret scored two runs in the bottom of the first, using a sacrifice fly and an error to do so.
Miller stranded two base runners in the second inning, but Post 99 cut into its deficit with two more runs in the third. Both of those runs were scored via an RBI base knock.
Rebuilding its cushion, Hamlet scored four more runs in the fourth to open its lead to 12-4. Facing reliever Seth Boyette (6.1 IP, seven runs, nine hits), Reynolds drew a bases-loaded walk to plate Purvis (hit-by-pitch).
Huneycutt followed suit with another bases-loaded walk to score Meeds (walk), and Hunt delivered with a two-RBI double to left field for the final two runs of the inning.
Miller retired Carteret in order in the home half and a two-out double to the alley in center by Westbay in the next half inning scored Purvis (single) to make it 13-4.
An error in the bottom of the sixth scored Post 99’s final run of the game. Hamlet’s last two runs came in the seventh, crossing the plate on an error and an RBI single by Phifer.
Reynolds was handed the ball to pitch the bottom of the seventh and he shut the door by leaving the bases loaded with a game-ending strikeout.
“We’re glad to be heading back to Hamlet with the series tied,” Gordon closed. “The guys are excited to play in front of their home crowd.
“Jackson (Kuhn) will be our starting pitcher tomorrow. Hopefully things go well again and we can go up a game.”
Game three is set for 7 p.m. on Friday at Memorial Park in Hamlet. Hamlet and Carteret will play game four in Hamlet on Saturday at 5 p.m.