HAMLET — Despite out-hitting its opponent on Tuesday, the Hamlet American Legion baseball team suffered its first loss in front of its home crowd this season.
Playing the first of three consecutive nights, Post 49 lost a close game 6-4 against Hope Mills Post 32.
In a back-and-forth affair, both teams traded early leads and entered the fifth inning tied at four runs apiece. Hope Mills scored two runs in the top of the fifth, which proved to be the difference maker.
Head coach Chip Gordon said Hamlet wasn’t without its chances to score, leaving nine runners on base throughout the game.
“We swung the bat okay tonight, certainly not as good as we could have,” Gordon said. “We left a lot of runners on base and didn’t connect on key at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“Those are situations where we have to produce, and not doing that is what really led to the outcome tonight.”
Walker Lambeth made his first start of the season for Hamlet, and threw 3.0 innings. He allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and punched out four batters.
Post 49 used a three-pitcher effort on Tuesday, followed by Jake Baucom for 1.1 innings of relief. He made his debut with the team and surrendered two earned runs.
Tristan Hunt closed the final 2.2 innings, giving up no hits and collected six strikeouts.
Hope Mills took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, using an RBI single and a wild pitch to jump ahead.
Cameron Way and Jake Clemmons both made defensive plays in the first that kept more runs off the board. On a fielder’s choice to short, Way fielded the ball and threw to Ryley Norton at third, who tagged out the lead runner.
Clemmons snagged a line drive to first base for the second out before Lambeth struck out a batter to end the jam.
A three-run bottom of the second inning saw Hamlet take the lead 3-2. A leadoff single to left by Lambeth and a Clemmons hit-by-pitch put two runners on. Ayden Allen moved both into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt.
Ra’Nik Little slapped an RBI single to left field in the next at-bat, scoring Baucom, who was running for Lambeth. Resorting to small ball again, Hunt laid down a safety squeeze and scored Clemmons to tie the game.
Ra’Nes Little, one of three players to connect for two hits in the game, gave Hamlet the lead with an RBI base knock back up the middle. Ra’Nik Little scored from second base.
Hamlet would load the bases in the inning but a strikeout ended the scoring threat.
A bases-loaded walk in the top of the third knotted the game at three runs apiece, but Lambeth was able to get a fly out and a strikeout to end the inning with the bases loaded.
Hope Mills used a leadoff triple and a wild pitch in the top of the fourth to take the lead again. Baucom relieved Lambeth with no outs and a runner on first, and retired the first three batters he faced.
Ra’Nik Little started a rally in the bottom half, hitting a leadoff double to right field. A Hunt single moved him to third, and he later scored with two outs on a wild pitch.
With one out and the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Hunt came into pitch for Hamlet. An RBI single and a passed ball put Hope Mills up for good.
Hamlet had some scoring opportunities late, but stranded two runners in the fifth and another in the seventh.
Ra’Nes and Ra’Nik Little, along with Norton, all had two hits in the game to lead Post 49. Clemmons, Hunt, Lambeth and Way each added a single. Tallying one RBI apiece were both Little and Hunt.
“Walker pitched well in his first start, and sometimes you don’t get them,” Gordon said. “Jake pitched well in his first game with us and did everything we asked him to do on the bases.
“A lot of guys continued to hit the ball well like Ra’Nes, Ra’Nik and Ryley. But sometimes the cards don’t fall your way. We’re going to cut the grass in the morning, line the field and get ready to play again.”
Post 49 (3-3) will play two more games this week, starting a home-and-home series with Wilmington Post 10 Veterans.
Hamlet will host Post 10 on Wednesday and travel to Wilmington Legion Stadium on Thursday. Both games are scheduled for 7 p.m.