BEAUFORT, N.C. — Opening the Area 2 conference tournament on Wednesday, the Hamlet American Legion baseball team nearly made a comeback to take game one.
Starting a best-of-five game series in the second round of the playoffs following a bye, No. 3 Post 49 suffered an 8-5 loss to No. 2 Carteret Post 99.
Missed opportunities at the plate through the first six innings is what head coach Chip Gordon said hindered Hamlet’s ability to take a series lead.
Post 49 scored all of its runs in the top of the seventh inning, and registered five of its eight hits in the final frame.
“We didn’t show up ready to play until the seventh,” Gordon said. “We weren’t able to get hits when we needed them and we left the bases loaded three times, all with less than two outs.
“It comes down to us not being ready to play, and when that happens, we get beat,” he added. “I am proud of the guys for battling back in the seventh. It was just a little too late.”
Carteret, which is now on a nine-game winning streak, dotted the scoreboard through the first five innings. Post 99 scored two runs in the first, third and fifth innings and added solo runs in the second and fourth frames.
In the top of the first, Post 49 loaded the bases with just one out thanks to walks drawn by Hunter Huneycutt and Markey Purvis, along with a single from Tristan Hunt.
But a strikeout and a groundout failed to give starting pitcher Skyler Mathis (5.0 IP, 7 runs, 8 hits, 4 strikeouts) any run support.
Carteret used a wild pitch and an RBI single to go ahead 2-0 in the home half, and an RBI double in the second made it a three-run lead.
Hamlet went down in order in the second and third innings against Bryan Garner. A two-run homer in the bottom of the third moved Post 99’s lead to 5-0.
After a four-batter inning for Hamlet in the fourth, an RBI groundout extended Carteret’s lead to six runs. Post 99’s final two runs came in the fifth.
Singles by Huneycutt and Hunt, coupled with a walk to Purvis, loaded the bases for Hamlet to start the sixth. But three consecutive strikeouts ended the inning without a run.
Taking over the pitching for Hamlet in the sixth was Eythan Reynolds, who struck out the side and left two runners stranded.
Following an out to start the seventh, Hamlet’s rally attempt started. Ashton Phifer doubled and J.D. Scarbrough traded places with him in the next at-bat with an RBI double to break into the scoring column.
A single from Huneycutt put runners on the corners and after a wild pitch, Hunt drove in both runners to make it 8-3.
Purvis drew a walk, and with two away, a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position. Hunter Meeds delivered with a line drive single to center field to score two runs.
Carter Bean reached via a free pass, but with the tying run at the plate, a strikeout ended the game.
Hunt led the team with three hits and two RBI, Huneycutt added a pair of hits and Meeds chipped in with a hit and two RBI. Scarbrough and Phifer also had a hit apiece, with Scarbrough adding the other RBI.
“The good thing about a five-game series is that we can move on and try to win tomorrow,” Gordon closed. “And that will give us a chance to bring the series back home and try to win it there in front of our fans.
“And hopefully tomorrow we’ll have the focus and approaches we had in the seventh inning from the start and be on the opposite end of the stick.”
Game two is set to be played in Beaufort on Thursday, beginning at 7 p.m.
Gordon said game three in Hamlet on Friday will also begin at 7 p.m., and if game four is needed on Saturday, it will start at 5 p.m.