For the second time in as many days, Post 48 won in dramatic fashion on the baseball diamond.
A walkoff hit by Hickory center fielder Phillip Carroll lifted his team to a ninth inning win over Caldwell County. Hickory (18-8) leads its series over Caldwell County (19-11), 2-0.
“Phillip is a great player,” Rembert said. “From day one, he wanted that center field spot and earned it. He competes so hard every night and gives us everything he’s got. He’s a 48er.”
Pitching remained the dominate trend through most of the early going of Monday’s game. Both teams had a combined five hits through five innings.
Post 48’s Jeremy Null pitched a strong nine-inning game. Through five innings, Null struck out four batters.
It appeared as if Caldwell would get on the board in the top of the second inning. Jon Gray doubled, followed by a single from Josh Murphy, but Null kept his composure.
After earning a leadoff strikeout of Blake Johnson, Null closed out the inning with strikeouts of Ethan Turner and Bubba Evans.
Null dodged trouble again in the top of the third inning. Back-to-back singles by Austin Beard and Max Linville put runners on the corners with two outs.
Null, along with Post 48’s defense, held strong though, forcing a ground out by Johnson to get out of the inning without allowing a run.
The scoreless drought for Caldwell County ended in the top of the sixth inning, when Gray homered with two outs. Murphy followed that powerful hit with a double and scored on the next at-bat by Turner, who singled.
Down, but not out, an impassioned speech by coach Fore Rembert in the middle of the sixth inning motivated his team to go out and take the lead.
“The game had some really good pitching, but there was just a lull,” Rembert said. “There was nothing happening. We felt like we needed to get our kids together, rally the troops and get something going.”
That’s exactly what Post 48 would do in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a leadoff double by Carroll, left fielder Jacob Hoyle, who was hitless up to that point in the game, homered over the left-center field wall to tie the game, 2-2.
Three batters later, a single by catcher Stefan Jordan scored Null to give Post 48 its first lead of the game.
Caldwell County tied the game in the top of the eighth inning. With two outs and two runners on, a double off the right field wall by Turner scored Linville from second base.
However, the possible go-ahead run — Turner — was caught in a run down. He was eventually thrown out at home plate trying to score.
Post 48 got a chance to take a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the eighth inning. Null singled, advanced to second on a bunt and took third base on an error by Austin Beard.
Caldwell County got out of the inning though on an unusual 1-3-6 double play that sent the Post 29 dugout into a frenzy.
Carroll played a huge part in keeping Post 48 ahead in the ninth inning. A liner hit by Caldwell’s Beard would be caught on a diving grab by Carroll, preserving the tie after 8 1/2 innings.
After a leadoff hit in the bottom of the ninth inning from Hickory’s Daniel Melton, two outs followed. Melton advanced to second base on one of those outs, but it looked like the game was headed to extra innings.
However, a towering shot by Carroll over right fielder Tyler Bumgarner’s head scored Melton from second base, giving Post 48 its second dramatic win in two days.
“I just wanted to hit the ball hard,” Carroll said. “I wanted to hit the ball in the gap and get my team the win.”
Hickory heads to Granite Falls tomorrow with a chance to close out its third straight series and advance to the Area IV championship game against either Queen City or Cherryville.
“We feel really fortunate to be up 2-0 on such a great team like Caldwell,” Rembert said. “They have great players and a great coaching staff. The best thing we can do is come out tomorrow night and do what we do. We don’t worry about everyone else. We worry about us. If we can try to find a way to pull another one out, that’s it.”
Carroll said his team is starting to peak at the right moment.
“We are starting to come together as a team and be a family,” Carroll said. “We have pushed through the tough times when we were down. The sky is the limit for this team and I love every one of them.”