HAMLET — With the bases loaded and the tying run at the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Hamlet Post 49’s season came to an end on Saturday.
Hamlet came up one win short of making the Area 2 championship series, falling to Carteret Post 99 by a final score of 8-4.
Following a rainout on Friday, No. 3 Hamlet and No. 2 Carteret started game three early Saturday afternoon.
But after starting pitcher Jackson Kuhn retired Post 99 in order on a ground ball and two strikeouts, a band of thunderstorms postponed the game for over four hours.
As a result of the delay, head coach Chip Gordon and Post 99 agreed to change the best-of-five game series to a winner-take-all three-game format.
Saturday’s game was nine innings, two innings longer than a regular American Legion game.
“Our undoing tonight was the same undoing we’ve had all season long,” Gordon explained. “We didn’t throw enough strikes. We walked 13 batters and five of those walks scored. We can’t put that many guys on base and expect to win.
“Our guys battled and never gave up, and I’m proud of them for that,” he added. “It was all we could do to try and get those runs back, we just didn’t have it tonight.”
The game resumed at 6:30 p.m. just as it had left off with Hamlet coming to the plate in the bottom of the first inning. Kuhn pitched 4.0 innings and gave up three earned runs on three hits with three strikeouts and six walks.
Carteret took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning thanks to a leadoff walk and an RBI single two batters later. Catcher Jon Westbay helped save a run when he picked off a runner going back to third base, as Hunter Huneycutt applied the tag.
An inning later, Kuhn helped eliminate an error to start the top of the third, firing over to first baseman Markey Purvis to nab a runner at first. Post 99 added a run on a sacrifice fly.
Trailing 2-0 in the home half of the third, Hamlet went to work in the box to make it a new game. A leadoff walk to Ashton Phifer against Bryan Garner (4.0 IP, three runs, three hits) was followed by Huneycutt beating out an infield single to first.
With runners on the corners, Tristan Hunt recorded the first of his team-high two runs batted in when he lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Phifer.
A double by J.D. Scarbrough put runners in scoring position and Purvis was issued an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. Kuhn helped himself when he collected an RBI on a groundout to first, giving Huneycutt time to score.
An error in the top of the fourth gave Post 99 a one-run lead, but Hamlet answered in the home half.
With the bases loaded again and just one out, Hunt sent another sacrifice fly to center. Deep enough to tag, Westbay (hit-by-pitch) bolted home from third to tie the score 3-3.
A quick fifth inning by both teams saw Mason Konen replace Kuhn on the mound. He pitched 1.0 inning and surrendered five runs on two hits and five walks.
Carteret used the free passes, three hits and a fielder’s choice to score five runs in the sixth to jump out to an 8-3 lead.
Consecutive bases-loaded walks by Konen resulted in Gordon going to the pen once more, calling on Hunt to pitch the remaining four innings. Hunt finished with a line of no runs on two hits and two walks.
Hamlet wouldn’t score again until the bottom of the ninth and stranded two runners over that span.
Facing reliever Matthew Woody (5.0 IP, one run, five hits) Post 49 tried to get a rally started. Carter Bean and Hunt reached base with back-to-back singles to center and left field, respectively.
With two away, Kuhn drew a walk and Hunter Meeds used his speed to beat out an infield single that chopped its way between third and short. Hunt scored from third, but a flyout in the next at-bat ended Post 49’s season.
Hamlet collected eight hits in the loss, including doubles by Phifer and Scarbrough. Meeds and Phifer each had two hits, as Bean, Huneycutt, Scarbrough and Hunt all had a single.
“All in all, the team did very well this summer,” Gordon closed. “I’m proud of all the guys for sticking with us until the end. We played a lot of good baseball and I hope they learned something from us.
“To the guys who aged out, I wish them the best of luck. And all the guys who are still able to play, I think they’re excited for next summer. We’re going to start working toward 2024 and hopefully accomplish our goal of winning Area 2.”
With the loss, Hamlet finished the season with an 11-10 overall record. The Richmond Observer will follow up with a season recap article.
The Richmond Observer will post a photo gallery of Saturday’s season finale soon.