ASHEBORO — Three-peat!
Randolph County Post 45 capped off a remarkable comeback in the 2019 American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, surviving four elimination games, including two …
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ASHEBORO — Three-peat!
Randolph County Post 45 capped off a remarkable comeback in the 2019 American Legion Mid-Atlantic Regional Tournament, surviving four elimination games, including two against Vienna (VA) Post 180 on Sunday afternoon, to claim a Regional Championship for the third straight year and once again advance to the Legion World Series in Shelby this week.
Randolph County will carry a 37-10 record into Shelby’s Keeter Stadium and will face the Northeast Regional Champion in a 7:30 p.m. contest on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Vienna saw a stellar season come to an abrupt halt after losing 3-0 and 3-2 to Post 45 on Sunday to close out the year with a final ledger of 36-4. Post 180 entered the championship day as the only unbeaten team left in the tourney field and needed just one victory to make its first-ever World Series appearance, whereas once-beaten Randolph County had to sweep a doubleheader to advance.
Sunday also marked the sixth time in the past seven years Post 45 found itself in the championship round of a Regional Tournament. Although this year was the first time the Mid-Atlantic Regional was hosted at McCrary Park, Randolph County has claimed the Southeast Regional title twice while finishing as runners-up on four occasions.
In Sunday’s Game 1, Post 45 southpaw Trevor Marsh went the distance on the mound and shackled Vienna on two hits while helping his own cause by belting a solo home run as Randolph County collared a 3-0 triumph.
The only hits given up by Marsh were a leadoff opposite-field single to right by Allen Yager in the bottom of the first and Jimmy Clark’s two-out bloop single to shallow right in the home fourth. The UNC-Wilmington freshman only went to a three-ball count on two batters and whiffed one while throwing a total of 71 pitches, including 44 (62%) for strikes.
The shutout broke a 16-game Post 180 win streak and marked the first time Vienna had been blanked in a span of 92 games dating back to mid-season 2017.
Post 45 gave Marsh all the offensive support he would need by plating a pair of runs in the top of the first as Marsh smashed a one-out double off the right field fence and scored on Spencer Lanier’s base hit up the middle. Austin Curry then drove in Lanier with a double down the left field line.
Randolph County added an insurance run in the visitors’ third when Marsh belted a one-out 0-1 offering from losing pitcher L.A. Rice over the right field fence, his second round-tripper in two days, to complete the scoring.
Rice hurled five innings and absorbed the loss, giving up six hits and three earned runs. Post 180 reliever Eric Lingebach tossed hitless ball over the final two frames, walking three (one intentional) and striking out three.
In Game 2, Post 45 starting pitcher Braxton Davis went six innings on the hill to collect the win, surrendering six hits and two earned runs in addition to issuing three free passes (one intentional) and whiffing one. Tatum Marsh came on to pitch the last inning and gave up two hits with one strikeout to earn a save.
Left-hander Zach Perkins, the second of three Vienna hurlers, suffered the defeat after allowing three hits and three runs (two earned) while fanning two in three innings on the mound.
Post 180 starting pitcher Shane Stiehl went two-plus innings on the hill, yielding one hit while walking three and striking out one. Justin Taylor threw the final two frames for Vienna and allowed one hit besides walking a pair and whiffing one.
Randolph County snapped a scoreless tie by plating all three of its runs in the top of the fourth. Colby Hammer drilled a one-out opposite-field base hit down the right field line and moved to second when Blake Marsh was nicked by a pitch.
Easton Morgan then tapped back to the mound, where Perkins snared the ball and attempted to force out the runner at second, but his throw sailed into center field, permitting Hammer to sprint home with the game’s initial run.
After Troy Kinney was hit by a pitch to load the bases, Tatum Marsh and Harris Jackson followed with back-to-back singles to bring in Blake Marsh and Morgan.
Post 180 picked up a run in the bottom half of the fourth as leadoff batter Ryan Dooley grounded an opposite-field base hit to left, advanced to second on an infield miscue, moved to third on a wild pitch and cane in to score when Avery Neaves lofted a sacrifice fly to right.
Vienna cut the margin to 3-2 in the home sixth as Neaves reached on a one-out fielder’s choice and sped to third when Perkins lined a single to right prior to the former dashing home on Luke Erdmann’s groundout.
Down to its last three outs, Post 180 posed a serious threat in the bottom of the seventh when Allen Yager and Dooley rapped consecutive one-out singles to put runners at first and second.
Eric Lingebach then reached on a fielder’s choice that advanced Yager to third. But with the tying run just 90 feet away, Tatum Marsh proceeded to slip a called third strike by Neaves for the final out to set off a wild celebration by the Post 45 squad.
During the post-game awards presentations, Trevor Marsh was recognized as the tourney MVP after he was 8-for-22 (.364 batting average) at the plate, including two homers and four doubles with 10 RBIs and eight runs scored in six games, while compiling a 2-0 record on the mound, giving up no runs and only four hits in nine and two-thirds innings.
“Our pitching staff gave us great outings throughout this tournament, while our team has taken the same approach all year to work hard and get better, and that’s why we’re advancing,” stated Randolph County coach Ronnie Pugh. “I’m thinking back and I think Vienna was one of the better teams who have ever been here. They do a lot of things well, and we saw a lot of good things we did in these last six games. We didn’t change anything; we just came out and played and found a way to do it.”
Gracious in defeat, Post 180 coach Nick Good had nothing but praise for the winners.
“My hat’s off to Randolph County,” said Good. “They are a really good team, and we just couldn’t get our bats going against their pitching, while I feel we were a little anxious at the plate. I really thought the difference this afternoon between two evenly-matched teams was we wanted it more. But maybe they have come to expect it. I didn’t think they would want it as much as this team, but they did. They will make a good representative from this region at the World Series.”