Dragoons make the Area IV playoffsRoberts hurls impressive two-hit complete-game gem against Shelby; Post 47 starts postseason run Wednesday
For the first time since 1952, American Legion baseball makes a triumphant return to Haywood County when the Haywood Post 47 Baseball Club takes the field for the first time in 61 years.
Wait a minute ... the Dragoons have already been there and done that.
Actually, the stage is even bigger as Haywood Post 47 will make its first American Legion playoff appearance in more than 61 years.
“American Legion is really a big deal,” said Post 47 Manager Caleb McConnell. “We open with the West Division champions, so we have got to play our best brand of baseball in order to advance. But we have to focus on Game 1 and not get caught looking ahead. This is not a David vs. Goliath situation. I like our team’s chances. We can win this series.”
The Dragoons open the Area IV playoffs at West Division champions Shelby Post 82 in a best-of-five game series, beginning tonight at 7 p.m., at Ketter Stadium, which is also the home of the World Series.
The Dragoons will host Shelby in Game 2 on the Fourth of July at 7 p.m. at the friendly confines of Tuscola Ballpark before going back to Shelby on Friday for Game 3 and if necessary, hosting Game 4 Saturday night and wrapping up the series at Shelby Sunday night.
The first three rounds are a best-of-five series and the Area IV championship series, which both teams qualify for the state tournament in Wilson on July 25-30, is a best-of-three game series.
The Dragoons finished the regular season with a 6-5 win over visiting Henderson Sunday night at Tuscola Ballpark and split Monday’s doubleheader with Shelby by pounding the West champs, 11-1, and losing the second game, 9-0.
Against Henderson County Post 77, the Dragoons padded their 3-2 lead with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 6-2 lead on three consecutive RBI doubles by Cal Raleigh (Smoky Mountain), Thomas Tatham (Pisgah) and Nathan Summey (Pisgah).
Henderson County answered with three runs to slice the Post 47 lead to 6-5.
But Eli Ferguson (Tuscola), who relieved starter Mark Thompson, shut the door on the visitors in the eighth and Raleigh picked up his first save after pitching a spotless ninth.
Thompson picked up the win, going seven innings, and allowing seven hits. He was charged with five runs, but only three were earned.
Raleigh and Tatham finished with two doubles each, while Summey had two hits.
In the regular season doubleheader finale on Monday, left-handed Chance Roberts (Hiwassee Dam) hurled an impressive two-hit, complete-game gem against Shelby Post 82. He struck out seven, walked two and hit one batter.
Roberts’ offensive support arrived late as the Dragoons broke open a 1-1 pitching duel with seven runs in the fifth and three in the sixth to enforce the mercy rule.
In the fifth, Mason Fox made it to second on a fielding error to lead off the frame. Third baseman Jesse Bates (Murphy), laid down a perfectly placed bunt single before Lucas Ledford (Tuscola) drove in Fox and caught Shelby napping with a bunt single to give Haywood Post 47 a 2-1 lead.
Ledford raced to third when a one-hop rocket off the bat of shortstop Trey Maslin (Franklin) was misplayed by second baseman Cody Fitch.
Raleigh promptly gave the Dragoons a 5-1 lead when he crushed a three-run home run. Tatham followed by lining a single to center, stole second a scored on Summey’s sharp single to right center. Thompson singled and later scored on Fox’s fielder’s choice.
Leading 8-1 going into the bottom of the sixth, Ledford reached base on another fielding error and later scored on a pass ball to give Post 47 a 9-1 lead.
Maslin followed with a single to right and Raleigh ended the game and enforced the 10-run mercy rule with another majestic home run into the parking lot beyond the right field wall.
Raleigh finishes with a single, two homers and drove in five runs to led the Dragoons. Ledford and Neil Peterson (Tuscola) had two hits each. Haywood Post 47 had 13 hits.
Left-handed pitcher Jaren Byrd tossed a three-hit shutout to secured the West Division championship for Shelby in the second game.
Bates started the second game and took the loss for the Dragoons.
Haywood Post 47’s hits were by Tatham, Fox and Thompson.
The Area IV American Legion Playoffs
Haywood Post 47 vs. Shelby Post 82
Game 1: Wednesday, July 3 - Haywood at Shelby, 7 p.m.
Game 2: Thursday, July 4 - Shelby at Haywood, 7 p.m.
Game 3: Friday, July 5 - Haywood at Shelby, 7 p.m.
Game 4: Saturday, July 6 - Shelby at Haywood, 7 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 5: Sunday, July 7 - Haywood at Shelby, 7 p.m. (if necessary)