HAMLET — After a week of waiting, and some shifting of conference standings, the Hamlet American Legion Post 49 baseball team has a first-round playoff opponent.
The Area 2 playoff brackets were released Wednesday afternoon, as Hamlet secured the No. 2 seed in this summer’s conference playoffs.
No. 2 Hamlet will welcome in No. 7 Wilmington Post 10 Patriots for the first of a three-game series on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Post 49 originally finished the regular season with an 11-8 overall record and an 8-6 mark against Area 2 competition. But the team was awarded another conference win following a forfeit issued by the league.
Head coach Chip Gordon explained that Wilmington Post 10 Veterans, which was the original No. 1 seed, was found to have three ineligible players on its roster. The Veterans had to forfeit any game those players played in after June 26 and dropped to No. 4.
Hamlet was tied for the No. 3 seed with Hope Mills Post 32, but with the reshuffling, Post 49 moved into a tie for the No. 2 seed. Gordon said Hamlet got the higher seed in the tiebreaker, which used the teams’ run differential.
“It feels good to know who we’re playing and that we earned the No. 2 seed,” Gordon said. “Our players and coaches have worked really hard to rebuild this program and played good baseball to earn where we are in the standings.
“Everyone is pleased to see that the hard work is paying off,” he continued. “It’s been a grind, but we’re rested and ready to go. We all think we have a great shot going into this series.”
Hamlet and Post 10 Patriots (4-9) met twice during the regular season, playing a doubleheader on June 17.
Post 49 won the first game 11-4 and surrendered a late lead to fall 9-8 in the second game.
In the win, Ra’Nik Little pitched 5.0 innings and allowed four runs and had four strikeouts. Nick DiCarlo and Finley Spicer both had two RBIs and six players had a hit.
Hamlet erased an early deficit in game two and held a two-run lead heading into the final inning of game two before Post 10 scored three runs to win. Four players had at least one RBI, with Spicer’s two leading the way.
“They’re a good team,” Gordon said of Post 10, “but we should’ve beaten them both games. In game one, we played like we should have and we won, and in the second game we weren’t very sharp and it put us behind.
“If we can use everything we have to offer, we matchup well with them,” he continued. “The key is to pitch and play defense, and stay ahead in the count. If our guys pitch off of their fastball, we will be fine and open up some eyes.”
Post 49 brings a solid lineup into the playoffs, led by Rylee Norton (.485 average, 10 RBIs), Cameron Way (.472 average, 10 extra-base hits, 18 RBIs) and Spicer (.394 average, 15 RBIs).
Way and Tristan Hunt both lead the team with 21 runs scored, and Tanner Cheek has scored 16 runs to go along with his double-digit walks and .261 average.
Spicer, Way and Hunt are Hamlet’s top three leaders in earned run average, all sitting below a 3.36 ERA. Hunt has struck out 26 batters and Way has added 20 Ks.
Hamlet and Post 10 Patriots will play in Hamlet on Thursday, at Wilmington on Friday and game three will be played in Hamlet on Saturday if necessary.
If Hamlet advances, Post 49 would play the winner of No. 3 Hope Mills and No. 6 Pleasure Island starting on July 18.