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Rain falling from the skies is a common sight during the long slog of summer baseball, and the American Legion level of play is no exception.
But two rainouts sprinkled into different areas of the month-long schedule set Wilson Post 13 up for a grind of a final week.
Saturday night in Fleming Stadium, the five-game trudge ended in one final show of regular-season sluggishness.
Having already clinched the Area I East division championship, Wayne County Post 11 picked up 4 1/3 strong innings from starter Aryc Chrisman, and reliever Jonathan Peacock recorded three key outs to squelch a late Wilson rally as Post 13 wrapped up a 1-4 showing in the final week of play with an 8-5 loss.
Post 13, which finished the regular season 6-7 overall and 5-7 in Area I East, lost its third straight game and will now await its seed and the identity of its opponent in the playoffs. That will be contingent on how many teams decide to opt out of the seven-team postseason in Area I East, which could contain anywhere from four to six teams once withdrawals are recorded. The postseason will not begin until after July 4.
With the loss, Wilson split with each opponent in Area I East with the exception of Wayne County.
“It came down to this last week,” Post 13 head coach Noah Edens reflected. “This last week, we played some sloppy baseball at times. We played some good baseball at times, but we just picked a bad time to start playing bad.”
Wayne County, which finished Area I East play with an 11-1 record, was far from pristine defensively, matching the four errors of Post 13. But in handing Wilson starter Jaelynn Melton his first loss of the Legion season, Wayne County made the most of its three hits against the Post 13 hurler in 4 1/3 innings. After Melton hit Jack Casbarro with a pitch to lead off the contest, Post 13 committed two errors on the same play after Casbarro stole second, reached third on a throwing error and scored on an overthrow from center field. Melton hit three batters and handed out three walks. Four of his six runs were earned.
Four more runs on just two hits crossed for Post 11 in the second after Conner Vernon steered a two-run homer over the left-field wall and Carson Smitherman laced a two-run single up the middle. Smitherman, who was 2 for 3 with a double to pace Wayne County, was erased on a baserunning blunder following his two-bagger to lead off the fifth. Post 11 still struck for an unearned run in the inning.
Wilson scratched back in the third with an unearned run against Chrisman. Dom Gaetano singled and touched home on Alston Pittman’s sacrifice fly to right. However, that was all Post 13 managed against the Wayne County starter, who struck out six without a walk through 4 1/3 innings. With the regular-season championship in hand, head coach Adam Pate, a former standout at Charles B. Aycock and the University of North Carolina, didn’t extend his starting arm further.
“If the title for the regular season was on the line, I don’t pull him,” Pate assured of Chrisman. “But we had it, and I wanted to get other guys some work. He did an excellent job, though.”
With Chrisman out, Wilson began chipping away in the fifth against a trio of Post 11 relievers. Gaetano, who was 2 for 3 with a double to lead Post 13, sent a hard ground ball off of Vernon’s leg that ricocheted into left field for a double. That forced Vernon from the mound, and Wilson closed to within 6-3 on a bases-loaded error off the bat of Tyler Sherrod and Silas Gonzalez’s single.
Wayne County made the move to Jonathan Peacock, who squelched the Post 13 rally by getting Parker Garris to stare at a 1-2 pitch for the final out.
Peacock turned aside the final Wilson rally in the sixth. Two hits and an error, concluding with a T.J. Harris RBI single into right field that beat the shift, moved Post 13 to within 7-5 with no one out. But Peacock got Gaetano to ground into a 4-6-3 double play to clear the bases, and the final five Post 13 batters were retired.
Peacock worked the final 2 1/3 innings for the save, allowing two hits and striking out a pair. CBA graduate Blake Gipson turned in a pair of solid defensive plays at second base on two hard-hit balls in the seventh. All Wilson runs were unearned. Tyler Daniels doubled home an insurance run in the top of the seventh for Wayne County.
“About everybody out there has pitched in the last five days,” Edens said. “Everybody’s tired, everybody’s hurt. Well not hurt, just sore. It’s just been a long week. And I know that’s Legion baseball, but two rainouts piled into the last week of the season, especially coming up against a team like that is tough to get over.”
Wayne County 140 011 1 — 8
Wilson 001 022 0 — 5
WP-Aryc Chrisman 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO. LP-Jaelynn Melton (3-1) 4 1/3 IP, 3 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO. S- Jonathan Peacock 2 1/3 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Wilson: Dom Gaetano 2-3, 2B, T.J. Harris 1-2, RBI, Justice Lynn 1-3, Cedric Kirby 1-3; Wayne County: Carson Smitherman 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI, Conner Vernon 1-3, HR, 2 RBI, Jack Casbarro 1-2, 2B, RBI.