GARNER — A three-run top of the 11th inning by Hamlet Post 49 lifted the team to a pivotal Area 2 conference win on Sunday.
Playing the front end of a doubleheader at Garner Magnet High School, Hamlet defeated Brunswick Post 543 by a final score of 9-6. The win completed the regular-season sweep for Post 49.
With just 10 players available on Sunday, head coach Chip Gordon’s message to the team was simple — to lock in and get a win.
Thanks to a strong start from Matthew Miller, coupled with relief appearances from J.D. Scarbrough and Tristan Hunt, a sacrifice fly courtesy of Jackson Kuhn proved to record the winning run.
“The guys were locked in knowing we were short on players,” Gordon said. “We had to do everything the right way to get the job done, and we did.
“We had good approaches at the plate, got bunts down when we needed to and had some big pitches in some key situations,” he added. “The guys fought and battled for a good victory in conference play.”
Miller threw six innings in a no-decision and gave up four runs (three earned) on six hits. Brunswick took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a solo shot.
Post 49 took the lead in the top of the second inning with a pair of runs, starting with an RBI double from Hunter Meeds. Ripping the ball to the gap in center, Meeds brought in Jon Westbay (walk).
A groundout moved Meeds to third and he scored on a passed ball to make it 2-1.
Kuhn added to the early lead in the top of the third frame with the first of his game-high two RBI. He sent an offering from Ty Mathis (5.2 innings, six hits, five runs) into left on a line drive, plating Ashton Phifer (single).
Post 543 evened the score in the home half of the third, using a two-RBI single by B.D. Lanier.
The early back-and-forth affair swung in Hamlet’s momentum in the top of the fourth inning. Carter Bean chopped an RBI single the opposite way to left field, bringing in Meeds (walk).
Miller sat Post 543 down in order on nine pitches in the fourth, but a passed ball with two outs an inning later resulted in a 4-4 tie.
Phifer put Hamlet ahead by a run in the sixth, lining a two-out RBI single to center. Meeds, who led off the inning with a base knock, scored from third.
An 11-pitch bottom of the sixth from Miller retired Brunswick in order again. Leading by a run in the bottom of the seventh, Scarbrough (1.2 innings, two runs, one hit) allowed a one-out double and a passed ball tied the game.
Bean led off the top of the eighth with a double the other way to the gap in left-center. With two away, he scored to make it 6-5 on a passed ball.
Brunswick used another passed ball to tie the game again with the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth. Hunt entered the game (3.1 innings, one hit) and worked out of the jam with a lineout to Phifer in right field to the next batter.
Both teams went scoreless through the ninth and 10th innings, as Hunt faced three batters in the ninth and stranded two runners in the 10th.
A leadoff walk to Scarbrough, followed by a Hunt bunt single, put two on with no outs in the 11th. Kuhn dug in and lifted a sacrifice fly to right field to score the eventual game-winning run.
Tacking on two insurance runs, Ryley Norton drove in the first one with an RBI double to left field. He later scored on an error to make it 9-6.
Hunt hit the leadoff batter in the 11th, but three straight flyouts ended the game.
“Matt pitched very well,” Gordon said. “He always competes for outs and he did that tonight. J.D. bridged the gap for us and Tristan shut it down. Any time we give it to him, we can pretty much count on it to be over with.”
Hamlet totaled 11 hits in the win, two apiece from Meeds, Bean and Phifer. Adding one each were Scarbrough, Hunt, Kuhn, Norton and Westbay. Kuhn’s two RBI led the team, as Norton, Meeds, Bean and Phifer drove in one apiece.
The Richmond Observer will publish a game story of Post 49’s second half of the doubleheader soon.