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No. 1 Red Rams coast past No. 2 Anson Blue to win baseball title

The 2022 champion Hamlet Red Rams baseball team.
Kyle Pillar — Sports Editor.

HAMLET —  About halfway through the season, Hamlet baseball coach Anthony Hailey told his team to start believing they were champions.

That goal came to fruition on Tuesday, as the No. 1 Red Rams earned their second straight playoff championship.

Behind a dominant complete game by Evan Hodges, Hamlet coasted to an 11-3 win over No. 2 Anson Blue. It was the second time this season the Red Rams defeated the Bearcats.

Evan Hodges fires a pitch during the first inning of Tuesday’s championship win. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

“Evan pitched a great game for us and came out strong,” Hailey said. “He threw a lot of strikes and the guys came out ready to swing the bats today. We put the ball in play and made a lot of hustle plays. I’m really proud of them.

“At the beginning of the season it was rough and we were still trying to build chemistry,” he continued. “We were working on the fundamentals and it paid off today. I told them we were going to start putting ‘champions’ in the atmosphere, and they finished the way we wanted to.”

Hodges allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits and struck out 12 batters, including the final out of the game. 

The Bearcats took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first using a single, two errors and a passed ball.

But Hamlet answered back in the bottom half when Hodges hit a two-out RBI double to the gap in left-center. Scoring from third was Michael Osentowski (walk).

A 1-2-3 top of the second by Hodges paved the way for a six-run bottom of the second for Hamlet that broke the game open. With two outs and runners on second and third, Drew Gause hit a single to left to score Terande Spencer (walk).

Courtesy runner Zamarion Robinson, running for Keith Cummings (walk), scored two at-bats later on a passed ball to make it 3-1.

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Continuing the two-out rally, Hodges helped his cause with a two-RBI single to center, scoring Gause and Zac Patton (walk). It was the second of Hodges’ game-high four hits, and the final of his three RBIs.

In the final two at-bats of the inning, Hayden Wheeler drove in Osentowski with an RBI knock to right, and Hodges scored following an error.

Anson Blue scored a run in the top of the third to cut its deficit to 7-2, but Hamlet answered with four runs in the bottom of the fourth.

With two outs, Spencer cleared the bases with a 3-RBI triple to the right field corner. Scoring on the play were Gause (single), Osentowski (error) and Hodges (single).

Terande Spencer (4) crosses home plate during the second inning. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

Cummings joined the RBI parade with a single to left field, bringing home Spencer from third to make it an 11-2 lead.

The Bearcats scored their final run in the top of the fifth, before Hodges and company shut the door in the final two innings. Anson Blue went down in order in the sixth and seventh frames.

Hamlet collected 11 hits at the dish, including four from Hodges. Gause had two singles and adding a hit each were Wheeler, Spencer, Cummings, Osentowski and Liam Stubbs.

Spencer and Hodges led the way with three RBIs apiece and Gause, Wheeler and Cummings contributed one each.

The Red Rams finished with an 11-1 overall record, losing only to rival Rockingham Middle School during the regular season. The Bearcats went 9-3 this spring.

Hamlet players dump the water cooler on coach Anthony Hailey after Tuesday’s win over Anson Blue. (Kyle Pillar/The Richmond Observer)

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Kyle Pillar is a nine-time North Carolina Press Association award-winning sports editor with The Richmond Observer. Follow the sports department on Twitter @ROSports_ for the best in-depth coverage of Richmond County sports.