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In a Junior American Legion baseball game that ran so late into the night on July 2 the automatic sprinklers came on at 11 p.m., the Southwest Trojans blew a 9-6 lead in the seventh inning before beating Leland Post 68 18-13 in 10 innings.
The victory in the second game of a doubleheader clinched home field for the first game of the four-team playoffs, which begin Friday. The Trojans, the No. 2 seed, have a rematch at home with Leland, the No. 3 seed. New Hanover (Wilmington) is the No. 1 seed and Ashley is the No. 4 seed. Times and sites of the second games will be determined after Friday. Teams must win two games to advance to the next round.
The Southwest Trojans and New Hanover finished 12-2 in the conference, but New Hanover was awarded the No. 1 seed because it won the first game between the two in the regular season.
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In the doubleheader, the Trojans lost the first game, which began at 5 p.m., 2-0. But propelled by the hitting of leadoff batter Hunter Allen and first baseman Logan Tripp—each reached base in all seven plate appearances—the Trojans won the second game, which ended about 11:45 p.m. The Trojans scored eight runs in the 10th to clinch the victory.
“In the first game we were flat,” manager Mike Alderson said. “We didn’t swing the bats. We got good pitching (from Jay Gause). We gave up only two runs. But our bats have been in the freezer the last couple of weeks.”
That wasn’t the case in the second game. The Trojans had 18 hits.
“We needed that (second) game,” Alderson said. “We tried to give it away several times. And they tried to give it away several times. We just kept hanging in there, and then we had that one big inning (in the 10th).”
In the second game, the Trojans were the road team and scored in the first.
Leadoff hitter Allen was safe on a first-pitch bunt. He stole second and went to third on Justin Cook’s single. Tripp was hit by a pitch, loading the bases. Jay Gause was safe on an infield error, driving in a run. Post 68 then turned a double play from Zack Mintz at first to Dakota Irwin at home to Mintz at first, and the inning ended on a groundout.
Post 68 scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead. Against Randy Daniels, Justin Pauley singled with one out. With two outs, Dakota Irwin singled. Zack Mintz singled in a run, and the second run scored on a wild pitch.
With one out in the bottom of the second, Post 68 got a runner on base by a walk, but catcher Alex Memory threw him out during an attempted steal. A.J. Perkins followed with a single, and Nick Spell tripled to deep right field, driving in a run and giving Post 68 a 3-1 lead.
In the top of the third, Gause singled home a run with one out. Allen, who led off the inning with a single, scored. With two outs, Blain Turner tied the score with a single to center.
Post 68 regained the lead in the bottom of the fourth on a single by Ryan Brendle, a groundout by Irwin and a wild pitch.
Against reliever Gavin Lane in the bottom of the fourth, the leadoff batter walked but was later thrown out at third by Turner, now catching. After Steven Congleton walked and A.J. Perkins singled, Post 68 scored a run during a Trojan error in a rundown. Another run scored on a dropped third strike, the run scoring on the throw to first base to get the out.
In the top of the fifth, the Trojans quickly scored when Tripp led off with a double to deep center field. He scored on infield single by Gause. A groundout by Jesse Simmons and a wild pitch advanced Gause to third. Gause was out at home on a suicide squeeze by pinch-hitter Bruce Clewis, leaving runners on third and first with two outs. Lorenzo Pigott then tied the score when he doubled to center field. Brian Wells entered the game in relief of Smith, and he ended the inning with a strikeout.
In the bottom of the fifth, Lane walked the leadoff batter but he picked off a pinch runner at the first base.
In the top of the sixth the Trojans scored twice to take an 8-6 lead. Allen led off with a single. With one out, Tripp doubled to right field. Gause was intentionally walked, loading the bases. Simmons singled to short center field, driving in a run. Clewis walked on a 3-2 count, forcing in the another run and putting the Trojans ahead 8-6.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Trojan infield of Joshua Cortes, Allen and Tripp turned a double play. Lane ended the inning by striking out the next batter.
Against reliever Mason Oppert in the seventh, the Trojans scored a run in what appeared to be an eventual seven-inning victory. With one out, Allen singled for the fourth straight time. Cook singled and Tripp walked, loading the bases. Gause singled in a run when he was safe on a fielder’s choice.
In the bottom of the seventh, after Lane gave up a hit to A.J. Perkins and a walk to Spell, Marquise Johnson came in to pitch. He walked two batters, forcing in a run. Pigott, the eventual winner, came in to pitch. Irwin drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. An apparent game-ending double play was nullified because of catcher interference. Post 68 then scored the tying run when Randall Rabon was hit by a pitch. The Trojans got the second out on a force at home after Gause, at third, fielded a groundball and threw to Turner at home. Pigott ended the inning by striking out the next batter.
The Trojans broke the 9-9 tie in the top of the ninth. Allen led off and was safe on an error. With one out, Tripp was safe on a fielder’s choice. Gause drove in the run when he doubled to center field.
Post 68 tied the score in the bottom of the inning when Brendle led off with a walk and Irwin doubled him home.
In the top of the 10th, Turner and Memory reached on bunts. Pigott’s sacrifice bunt moved the runners to third and second. Cortes was hit by a pitch loading the bases. Allen was safe on an infield hit, driving in a run. Cook walked, forcing in another run.
Facing reliever Zack Mintz, Tripp doubled to right field, driving in two runs and putting the Trojans ahead 14-10.
After Gause was intentionally walked, Simmons was safe on an infield hit, driving in a run. Turner followed with a three-run double to center, giving the Trojans a 18-10 lead.
The Trojans didn’t make the final inning easy for themselves, as they made two errors. A single by Brendle, a fielder’s choice by Irwin and a single by Mintz scored the final three runs.
For the Trojans, Allen was 6-for-7 and reached one other time on an error. Tripp was 3-for-4 with three doubles and two RBIs. He walked once, was hit by a pitch and reached on an error. Gause was 3-for-5 with three RBIs. He was intentionally walked twice. Cook was 2-for-5 with a walk and one RBI. Jesse Simmons had two singles and two RBIs. Turner had a single, a double and four RBIs. Clewis walked and singled and had one RBI. Pigott had a two-run double.
For Post 68, Irwin had a single, a double and four RBIs. Brendle had two hits and two RBIs. He walked twice. Mintz had two hits and three RBIs. He was intentionally walked once. Rabon had one RBI. He walked once and was hit by a pitch. Spell had a triple and one RBI. He walked once. Congleton walked twice.
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Trey Watson threw a two-hitter as Post 68 beat the Southwest Trojans 2-0 in the first game of the doubleheader.
Watson walked two and struck out five. He gave up a leadoff double to Justin Cook in the top of the second, but he struck out the next three batters to end the inning.
In the seventh, Cook reached on an infield single. Watson got the next batter to pop up and the game ended when Post 68 turned a double play.
Trojan pitcher Jay Gause got into trouble in the top of the third when Spell was safe at first on a close play. Gause walked D.J. Graham. He struck out Pauley, and then the infield of second baseman Tim Powell, shortstop Hunter Allen and first baseman Logan Tripp turned an inning-ending double play.
Gause also got a fine play from shortstop Hunter Allen for the first out in the fourth and another fine play by third baseman Alex Memory for the first out in the fifth.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Trojans’ Justin Cook walked with one out, but catcher Dakota Irwin threw him out during a steal attempt with two outs.
Gause again got excellent defense in the top of the sixth. He walked the first two batters, and Irwin’s sacrifice bunt moved them to third and second. Gause got the second when Allen fielded a groundball and threw to Blain Turner for an out at home plate. Gause then ended the inning by striking out the next batter.
Post 68 scored its winning runs in the top of the seventh. Steven Congleton led off and was hit by a pitch. A.J. Perkins bunted pinch runner Tyler Smith to second. Smith went to third after an errant pickoff try at second. Nick Spell then singled him home. With two outs, Justin Pauley walked. Ryan Brendle singled in the second and final run.
Gause pitched all seven innings He gave up two hits, walked six, hit one and struck out 10.
MICHAEL PAUL is the sports editor at the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or at email@example.com.