Wayne County Post 11 is one win away from the N.C. Senior American Legion state baseball tournament in Cherryville
Logan Merritt hit a walk-off single and capped Wayne County’s thrilling 6-5 victory against Pitt County Post 39 in the Area I East Tournament on Wednesday evening.
“I’m proud of all the boys. The energy in the dugout, every kid in our program had something to do with this when you have a win like this,” Wayne County Post 11 head coach Adam Pate said. “Logan Merritt did a good job all around. His at-bats have been consistently good.
“I’m happy for him, and I’m happy for our whole team.”
Drew Spencer got Post 11 off to a good start with an RBI single in the bottom first. Wayne County then pulled ahead 2-0 in the bottom of the second when Austin Booth hit an RBI single.
However, Pitt County put three runs on the board in the third inning to take the lead, while Danny Sadler’s RBI groundout in the top of the fourth inning increased Pitt County’s lead to 4-2.
“It’s one of those things where you’re glad you’re at home. Sometimes the higher seed means a bigger target on your back but being at home was a big plus for us,” Pate said.
Down but not out, Post 11 started its comeback in the bottom of the fourth inning when Merritt and Davis Albert both hit singles. Campbell Cunningham then hit an RBI single that cut Pitt County’s lead down to 4-3.
After keeping Pitt County off the board in the top of the fifth, Wayne County took a 5-4 lead in the bottom of the inning when Will Albert drew a walk, Justin Holland singled, and Merritt also drew a walk to load the bases.
With the bases loaded, Braeden Collins delivered a two-run single.
“The main thing is to keep playing and keep having good at-bats because our at-bats were really good, and we faced some really good pitching from Pitt County, and we stepped up to the challenge,” Pate said.
Pitt responded in the top of the sixth when Cole Watkins tied the game with a solo home run.
Carson Gipson kept Pitt County from retaking the lead in the top of the seventh inning, and Post 11 turned its attention to the bottom of the seventh.
Holland hit a double, and Spencer was intentionally walked, which set the stage for Merritt heroics, and with two strikes out on the board, Merritt emerged the hero with a walk-off single.
“I had to what had to be done. I had two strikes on me, and I was just thinking to put it in play, and something will happen,” Merritt said. “I was a little nervous, I’m not going to lie, but I think the nerves ended up coming into help. I was alert and ready, and he gave me a pitch, and I hit it.”
Will Pennington got the start on the mound. Pennington was on the mound for two and thirds innings before Will Harris came into the game. Harris also pitched two and thirds innings, while Carson Gipson closed out the game.
Pate was particularly proud of what he saw from his pitchers throughout the game.
“Pitt has a really talented lineup, and they’re a really good team. I’m really proud of Pennington. That’s not an easy thing to do when he’s pitched so well all year,” Pate said. “Harris in the middle provided some good outs and efficient pitching, and Carson shutting the door.
“I’m proud of Carson because he’s had a role this summer that very few kids would accept or be excited about, but he’s dominated it and been a good teammate.”
Post 11 will be back in action at Rosewood High School on Friday evening against Kinston Post 43 or Pitt County with a chance to go to the state tournament on the line. First pitch is 7 p.m.
“That’s special stuff, a walk-off win against that good of a team in this environment. There’s a lot of things I was telling them to soak up because that’s why you play,” Pate said. “Enjoy this one, and we know we have work to do on Friday because the job is not done yet.”