Little comes up big as Post 45 pulls out victory in Southeast Regional opener

Grant Little’s return to action turned out to be timely for Randolph County Post 45. (File photo)

ASHEBORO – The game barely started and Randolph County Post 45 needed big help in the Southeast Regional.

That came from Grant Little, who hadn’t pitched in more than a month.

Little calmed things down for Post 45 before the offense caused commotion in what became a 14-8 victory against Rock Hill (S.C.) Post 34 in the nightcap of the first day of the American Legion regional Wednesday night at McCrary Park.

“We realize what we’re playing for,” Post 45 shortstop Tanner Marsh said.

Little gave up one run across 3 2/3 innings – until a misplayed pop-up on the first batter after he was lifted resulted in two more runs. But what Little accomplished was big by putting a halt to Rock Hill’s momentum and allowing the Post 45 bats to finally get going.

Post 45 (30-11), which rallied from a five-run deficit, plays again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Evans (Ga.) Post 192 in a winners bracket game of the five-day, double-elimination event.

The offensive highlights were numerous. Josh Meadows drove in four runs, Blake Marsh and Tanner Marsh both rapped three hits and Adam Cole was on base five times and scored three runs – just to list a few.

Little, though, turned out to supply perhaps the most clutch performance. The Uwharrie Charter Academy player had been nursing a sore labrum that put him on the sideline.

“I didn’t know how long I was going to be out,” he said. “I wasn’t even expecting to pitch (in this game).”

Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh said Little threw in the bullpen a couple of times in last week’s state tournament.

“You just think the opportunity might come for him,” Pugh said. “That opportunity came and look what he did with it.”

A seven-run fifth inning gave Post 45 a lead for the first time.

“We kept the faith,” Tanner Marsh said. “The coaches kept telling us we just need base runners.”

Randolph County went ahead on Meadows’ two-run single with one out. Tyler Parks followed with a two-run triple. By the time the uprising was complete, Post 45 held a 9-5 lead.

“We just didn’t give up,” said Meadows, who broke out of a slump. “I was told once you find it, it’s going to feel amazing. I was just missing the pitches I wanted and (Wednesday night) I finally fulfilled it. It felt amazing.”

Trey Way had two singles in the fifth.

Randolph County kept going in the sixth. Cole sliced an RBI single and Meadows knocked in a run with a ground-rule double before Tatum Marsh’s groundout resulted in another run.

With a run in the seventh, Post 45 scored in the final five innings.

“We wait until later to turn it on at the offensive end,” Little said.

There was a different tone set earlier when Rock Hill, the South Carolina state champion, poured on four first-inning runs against Robert Garner. Josh Wimmer’s lead-off homer in the second against Little made it 5-0 before – from Post 45’s perspective – order was restored.

The offense had quite a bit to do with it as well. In the state tournament, Post 45 managed a total of 16 runs in four games before nearly matching that in the regional opener.

“We had clutch base hits,” Pugh said. “We finally got people on with no outs or one out. I thought we showed a lot of discipline.”

Wednesday’s scores

Camden, S.C. 10, Owensboro, Ky. 0

Evans, Ga. 5, Columbia, Tenn. 0

Belleview, Fla. 8, Wilmington 5

Randolph County 14, Rock Hill, S.C. 8

By Bob Sutton