In a must-win game, Wayne County Post 11 bounced back in a big way against Port City Post 545 on Thursday afternoon.
Will Pennington pitched six and one-third innings and tossed seven strikeouts as Post 11 held off Port City 7-6.
“When you find a way to win, you’re happy with your kids, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day is getting the win,” Wayne County Post 11 head coach Adam Pate said. “We made it interesting, but at the same time, I’m happy for them.”
Post 11 made it a 1-0 game in the bottom of the first on Logan Merritt’s RBI single. Later in the bottom of the third, Will Albert hit a leadoff double, reached third off a Port City error, and then scored off a wild pitch.
Wayne County continued to increase its lead in the bottom of the fifth.
Rowan Watt drew a walk, and with Albert back up to bat, Watt stole second and reached third off a wild pitch. Albert then hit an RBI single to make it a 3-0 ballgame.
Justin Holland then belted a two-run home run to push Wayne County ahead 5-0.
“I thought Justin Holland’s home run was a big momentum shift that really kept the momentum in our dugout until they scored some runs,” Pate said.
Port City had no answer for Pennington, who continued to have an excellent season on the mound.
In 36 innings pitched this summer, Pennington has a 5-0 record, a 0.77 earned run average to go along with 41 strikeouts.
“I’m proud of Will because he is the epitome of blue-collar player,” Pate said. “He’s not flashy, he’s not the new age, throws hard, heavy velocity guy, but he gets outs, and he competes,” Pate said. “He’s a great teammate, and he’s a great kid that I’m glad to see have success.
“I’m proud of him, and what he did in this game was pretty special.”
However, in the top of the seventh inning, Port City made things interesting. Down to its final out, Port City’s Ryan Sproull scored off a Wayne County error.
Two batters later and with the bases loaded, Kyler Schoonmaker hit two-RBI single that cut Wayne County’s lead down to 5-3.
Garrett Wolff then hit a three-home home to give Port City a 6-5 lead.
“That was huge on Port City’s end that the game got like it did that late in the game,” Pate said. “When that happens, there’s nothing you can do except come back in the dugout and say, ‘hey, we have to get a guy on base.’”
But Post 11 refused to lose and regained the lead in the bottom of the inning. Will Harris hit a leadoff single, stole second, and reached third off a wild pitch.
Watt then drew a walk while Albert was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Holland also drew a walk which let Harris score.
Two batters later, Braeden Collins also drew a walk to give Post 11 the walk-off victory.
“I was definitely proud of the boys because that was it right there. We had to win the game to give ourselves a chance to advance,” Pate said. “That was literally a winner-take-all moment, and we had to step up and find a way to produce those runs.
“So, I was happy our kids found a way to produce those runs and win the game.”
Wayne County improves to 1-1 in pool play. Wayne County will wrap up pool play against Rowan County on Friday at 1 p.m. With a win against Rowan, Post 11 will advance to the semifinals of the N.C. Senior American Legion state tournament.