Following a 14-0 win on Monday against the East’s No. 1 seed, Huntersville, Hickory continued its dominance over Post 321 in the second round of the American Legion Playoffs.
Post 48 (15-8) scored 10 runs in three innings on its way to a 14-3 home route over Huntersville in game two at the American Legion Fairgrounds.
“We are just real focused right now on winning this series,” said coach Fore Rembert. “They want to advance to the next round. That is the big thing.”
Leading the way was Cole McGraw, who had a near-cycle. McGraw went 3-for-5 from the plate, including a single, double, home run and seven RBIs.
“We’ve come out with more fire, and we’re more aggressive than we were last series,” McGraw said. “We’ve hit the ball a lot better in key situations. That’s what has put us ahead.”
Hickory struck early in Tuesday’s game. Pitcher Jacob Hoyle delivered a shot over right-center field with two outs in the bottom of the first inning to give Post 48 a 1-0 lead after one inning.
A squeeze bunt single by Hickory left fielder Kyle Johnson scored McGraw from third base in the bottom of the second inning, but the biggest hit was yet to come.
With two outs, McGraw returned to the plate and hit a three-run home run in the same place that Hoyle did in right-center field to give Hickory a commanding 5-0 lead after only two innings.
“We’ve hit the ball well all year,” Rembert said. “We had three or four games where we went into a lull and didn’t hit it well. Our guys, 1-9, can swing it. We have 3-4 guys on the bench that can hit, too, if we need them.”
Huntersville (22-3) starting pitcher Hunter May continued his struggles in the third inning. He loaded the bases by walking 3-of-4 batters to start the inning, including Jeremy Null, Cameron Beard and Robert Whaley.
May surrendered his sixth run of the game on a RBI-single by Kyle Johnson. He walked in another run on a base on balls to Skyler Hollar. May exited the mound after 2.1 innings and was replaced by Ryan Ogden.
McGraw’s second hit was just as big as his first. He doubled deep to right-center field and unloaded the bases. He advanced to third base on a throwing error from center fielder Brandon Wilkerson.
Post 321 got on the score board on the first at-bat of the fourth inning. After retiring seven consecutive batters, Hoyle gave up a leadoff home run to Huntersville catcher Daniel Whitecavage.
Hoyle gave up three hits in the next four at-bats, including a double by Jered Fortune that scored Hunter Conley and a single by Justin Hammond that scored Fortune.
McGraw added his seventh RBI with the bases loaded. A single just past the reach of second basemen John Murray allowed Stefan Jordan to score. Whaley scored on a wild pitch on the next at-bat to make it a 13-3 game.
Hickory first basemen Null homered for the second time in two games against Post 321, driving a solo shot over the left field wall to increase Hickory’s lead to 11, 14-3.
Huntersville was unable to get two runs to stay alive and lost in seven innings via the mercy rule.
Hoyle pitched seven innings, allowing three runs, seven hits, four walks and struck out five batters in a solid victory on the mound.
Huntersville and Hickory play again tomorrow in North Mecklenburg High School. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Game four, if possible, will be Thursday at the American Legion Fairgrounds.