HAMLET — A slow start to Thursday’s outing didn’t give the Hamlet American Legion enough time to play catch up.
Erasing an eight-run deficit to make it a new ball game in the fifth inning, Hamlet couldn’t close the door in a 12-10 loss to Hope Mills Post 32.
“This was a big one for us because a win tonight would’ve locked in the two seed (in the conference standings),” head coach Chip Gordon explained. “It would’ve given us a good chance to beat Post 10 and take the No. 1 seed into the playoffs. But it didn’t go our way and we didn’t have a very good effort in the first three innings.
“The guys seemed like they weren’t ready to play and that’s on me and the coaching staff,” he added. “Our job is to make sure they’re prepared and tonight I felt like we didn’t get them ready for the first half of the game.”
Mason Konen started on the rubber for Hamlet and was efficient in the first inning, retiring Post 32 in order.
Hope Mills started the scoring in the top of the second, plating five runs. Konen was taken off the mound after 1.2 innings and allowed five earned runs on four hits and three walks.
Inheriting the bases loaded, Matthew Miller took over and got out of the jam with a double play. Tristan Hunt snagged a line drive at short and doubled off the runner at second.
Hope Mills added two runs in the third and another run in the fourth to take an 8-0 lead.
Hamlet answered with its own five-run bottom of the fourth, which sent nine batters to the plate. Markey Purvis, who recorded a team-high three runs batted in, got Hamlet on the board with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Hunt (walk).
With two away, Ryley Norton stepped in and delivered a two-RBI single to left field off Graysen Stafford (4 IP, five runs, five hits). Scoring on the base hit were Jackson Kuhn and Hunter Meeds, who both singled.
Capping the big inning, Konen helped the rally continue with a two-RBI single. Roping a liner off the second baseman’s glove, Konen brought in Norton and Carter Bean (double) to make it an 8-5 deficit.
Miller was quick on the mound in the top of the fifth, erasing an error to the leadoff batter by retiring the next three hitters. Hamlet knotted the game with three runs in the home half.
Hunt led off the inning with a double and scored with one out on a passed ball. Facing reliever Austin Keen, Jon Westbay reached on a ground ball error at short, bringing in Purvis (walk).
Meeds, who reached safely on a bunt single, tied the game 8-8 when he raced home on a passed ball four to Bean.
Post 32 scored its final four runs in the top of the sixth, using an error, and an RBI single and a two-run home run.
Hamlet’s final two runs came in the bottom of the sixth, as Purvis belted a moon shot to left-center field. It was his second home run in as many games, and the two-run homer scored Ashton Phifer, who led off the inning with a single.
Miller faced four batters in the seventh inning to give Hamlet a chance to win it, but the 49ers left the tying run at the plate following a fly out to center field. Hunt had a two-out triple but was stranded.
“I will commend the guys for how they played the last four innings, that was a championship effort,” Gordon commented. “The guys battled and didn’t roll over. I’ll take that effort all day.
“If we started out the way we played the last half of the game, we win tonight. We didn’t pitch very well and we gave away nine outs. We can’t expect to win when we do that.
“Markey and Tristan swung the bat well and there were some good things toward the end,” Gordon closed. “We’ll come out tomorrow with a better effort and have a shot at taking the No. 1 seed home. It all depends on what kind of effort we give tomorrow.”
Hamlet (11-6, 5-2 Area 2) can clinch the top seed in the conference standings if it wins Friday’s regular-season finale against Wilmington Post 10. First pitch from Memorial Park is scheduled for 7 p.m.