American Legion baseball: Post 45 edges Post 81 again in intra-county clash

Post 45 pitcher Parker Kines (Bob Sutton / Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO – Parker Kines wasn’t certain he would play American Legion baseball, but it has turned out to be a good thing for him and Randolph County Post 45 so far this season.

Kines was on the mound for a strong start as Post 45 topped Liberty Post 81 for the second time in five nights, a 6-4 decision Monday night at McCrary Park.

“I wasn’t planning on this,” he said of the summer activity. “But my coach (at Wheatmore) said it would be a good idea.”

Kines, a rising senior, worked 6 2/3 innings and then shortstop Jake Riddle relieved him, needing two pitches to record the last out.

It has been a challenging first month of the season for Randolph County (6-6 overall, 2-1 Area 3 North) with plenty of roster fluctuation.

The presence of Kines, a left-hander, has been a plus.

“That was pretty good what he did there for us,” Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh said. “I’d like to see him finish it.”

Another tight game with Post 81 didn’t allow for a comfortable conclusion.

Randolph County went ahead with a four-run sixth inning. But Post 81 (9-6, 1-3) generated two seventh-inning runs before Logan Fox grounded out to end the game.

“Can’t find a way to win some of these,” Liberty manager Nate Cockman said. “Putting ourselves in position, just not getting it done.”

Part of that was because of Kines, a lanky lefty who was steady.

“We’re getting some good pitching,” Post 45 catcher Caleb Dunn said.

Dunn led off the sixth with a single and Braxton Walker followed with an infield single. Tate Andrews drew a one-out walk to load the bases.

Caden Lasley was hit by a Bryson Marley pitch to force in the go-ahead run and Riddle followed with a sacrifice fly. Pierce Leonard’s single supplied the next run and the fourth run of the inning crossed the plate before Liberty caught Leonard in a rundown.

Jackson Berger and Andrew Thomas, who drove in the game’s last run, both singled in the seventh for Post 81.

“It’s good for our young guys to see we can hang with guys like this,” Cockman said.

Marley, a left-hander, kept Post 45 off balance for much of the game.

“We have to find some offense,” Pugh said.

The scoring began with Trey Kennedy’s one-out, run-scoring single in the second inning for Post 45. Third baseman Noah Lester mishandled Riddle’s two-out grounder and Randolph County tacked on a second run.

Post 81 second baseman Chase Collins turned Post 45 line drives into double plays by making the snag and then throwing out retreating runners at first base in both the third and fourth innings. Collins, a rising freshman at Providence Grove, was summoned from the Junior Legion team to fill a vacancy.

Marley’s second single of the game combined with an outfield error set up Post 81 for Grant Underwood’s RBI single in the fifth inning. Underwood stole second, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on Collins’ one-out single through a drawn-in infield.

The rally ended when left fielder Pierce Leonard tracked down Fox’s hit that was headed toward the corner and threw out Collins at third base.

Post 45 put the first two batters on base in the bottom of the fifth and didn’t convert.

Low-scoring games have been the norm for Randolph County.

“We’re piecing it together,” Dunn said.

The teams met last Thursday night with Randolph County pulling out a 6-4 victory in eight innings at Eastern Randolph High School in Ramseur, with Riddle and Dunn doubling in the extra frame. In the bottom of the inning, Brett Smith, who worked four innings in relief, struck out the last two batters with a runner on base after Chance Holdaway’s run-scoring single.

It was the first game for each team after a six-day layoff.

Dunn doubled and Clay Hill singled when Post 45 pulled even in the fifth. Leonard reached base five times for Randolph County.

Logan Fox had a two-run single for Liberty, which received two hits from Cade McCallum.

** Post 45 won 5-3 at Chatham County Post 292 last Friday, with Drew Harmon pitching five innings with 11 strikeouts and Andrews finishing on the mound.

** The two-game winning streak ended for Randolph County on Saturday night when visiting Davidson County Post 8 secured a 7-4 victory despite Leonard’s three hits. Drake Purvis took the loss.

** Also Saturday night, Post 81 fell 4-3 to host Chatham County. Isaac Yates, who had three hits, drove in two runs for Liberty. Berger took the loss despite working 5 1/3 innings.

By Bob Sutton