ASHEBORO – It took most of Saturday night before Randolph County Post 45 was dismissed from the Southeast Regional.
The host team battled for 11 innings with Florence (S.C.) Post 1 before suffering a 5-4 loss at McCrary Park.
“We’ve been playing all night,” Post 45 manager Ronnie Pugh said. “This was a classic. Our guys sucked it up and played.”
Florence (29-5) is unbeaten in the double-elimination regional and will play Fuquay-Varina Post 116 (30-6) at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. If Fuquay-Varina wins, another winner-take-all game will follow.
Post 45 ended the season with a 25-8 record, going 2-2 in regional play for the second year in a row.
This one came with an array of twists and turns.
“I thought for sure we were going to win it,” shortstop/pitcher Hunter Atkins said. “That’s how it goes. There was ups and downs.”
Post 1’s Josh Williams tripled to begin the 11th and scored on Noah Moore’s sacrifice fly.
Post 45 tried to match it, with Carter Brown starting the bottom of the inning with an infield single and moving to second on Caleb Dunn’s sacrifice bunt. Tanner Marsh drew a two-out walk and then a wild pitch moved up the runners before Atkins walked. Tyler Parks, who held the hero’s tag several times during the game, fouled out to end it.
“You can’t ask for anything else out of your team,” Parks said.
Atkins threw 87 pitches, the most he has thrown in a game at any level. He struck out seven in six innings of relief.
“We played a baseball game here and everybody was into it,” Pugh said. “I would much rather go out in a game like this than get beat 7-1. … We were capable of winning this tournament.”
Post 45’s dramatics cranked up in the fifth inning. Florence reliever Collin Minshew walked Marsh and Atkins before Parks lofted a home run to left field to put Randolph County ahead 4-3.
Marsh pitched five-plus innings, giving up singles to the first two Post 1 batters in the sixth. Atkins worked out of the jam.
“You had to be tough (in this game),” Atkins said. “You couldn’t be mentally soft.”
Parks, the third baseman, had spectacular glove work in the seventh after Post 1’s Collin Minshew led off with a double. Parks made a sliding catch of Jackson Moore’s foul popup for the first out. Minshew scored on a two-out wild pitch, but Parks’ play might have prevented a big rally.
Parks was at it again in the 10th, starting a double play with a nifty stab and throw after the first batter reached on a single.
Atkins led off the bottom of the 10th with a double and Parks was intentionally walked, but Post 45 couldn’t produce the winning run.
Randolph County’s Pierce Leonard went 3-for-4 with a walk. Parks and Brown each had two hits.
Earlier, Williams hit his second home run of the regional to open the scoring. Zach Hunt rapped a two-run double in the third.
Post 45 put its first two batters in the third inning on base with singles by Alex Martinez and Marsh. But Florence right field tracked down Atkins’ deep drive and Parks grounded into a double play.
Randolph County loaded the bases with one out in the fourth and scored on Dunn’s walk, but another double play ended the threat.
This marked the first extra-inning game in the regional.
In Saturday’s first game, Fuquay-Varina drilled West End (Va.) Post 361 by 14-2 in a game reduced to five innings by the mercy rule.