Hickory heads into nearly a week-long break from American Legion baseball competition with a full head of steam.
Post 48 tallied 12 hits on Sunday — three of them off of the bat of catcher Luke Barton — in a 9-0 six-inning victory against Hammond Post 3.
"I just felt like we played a very tight, compact game with a loose attitude and mentality," said Post 48 coach Fore Rembert of his team's performance. "The kids hit the ball well. With it being a non-league game, you never know how competitive or intense they'll get, but we played well."
The victory for Hickory (7-3) is its fourth straight after dropping the previous three games.
Hammond, a team based out of Kingsport, Tenn., falls to 2-2 on the season.
Barton, a former St. Stephens High and current Montreat College catcher, gave Post 48 a two-run lead in the bottom of the second with one swing of the bat.
Barton's single in the inning to left field brought home Zach Jarrett and Jordan Eckard.
"Luke hit the ball well," Rembert said. "He takes a lot of pride in his hitting. He works hard at catching, but he really wants to be a good hitter. With him swinging the bat, it really opens up new dimensions for us. He isn't just a catcher that you can go up there and throw to. You've got to find a way to pitch to him somehow. That's a lot of the problems I feel like teams face when they play against us. Who do they throw to? Who do you want to go at? Luke had a great performance. He is doing what he is supposed to do. He is a returning college kid and playing like one right now."
One inning later, Barton drove in two more runs on a double to right field.
He was thrown out at third base trying to leg out a triple, which ended the inning.
"I was running until coach told me to stop," Barton said of his near triple. "He didn't stop me, so I kept on moving. I just got good pitches to hit today. I drove the ball into the gap. I started swinging at first pitches, and luckily, they just fell where people weren't there. It was a good day to hit."
Barton's two-RBI double was part of four runs scored in the bottom of the third inning by Post 48.
While the Hickory offense remained stout, its pitching shut down the Hammond offense.
Post 48 starter Colton Allison allowed five hits, three walks and struck out five in a 86 pitches on the mound.
"Colton threw a heck of a game," Barton said. "He is hitting his spots real well, not walking anybody and throwing strikes. We're getting ground balls, and our defense is playing well behind us."
Allison's complete game pitching performance, as well as the play of the Post 48 defense, allowed Hickory to record its first shutout of the 2013 summer season.
"Colton threw the ball really well," Rembert said. "He was spotting up all game long. He had a couple of walks there in the seventh inning. Then, the lightening and thunder started coming in, but he was in complete control of the game. The balls he missed with were very competitive. It wasn't like he was getting out of control."
Hickory added three runs in the game's final three innings, including an RBI single by Tyler Pait in the fourth and an RBI single by Phillip Carroll in the sixth.
The first game was called with no outs in the top of the seventh inning due to lightening and approaching storms.
Both team's coaches and game officials also made the decision to cancel game two of the doubleheader with only small window of playing time available before heavy rains entered the area.
Zach Jarrett, Jordan Eckard and Pait each tallied two hits apiece at the plate for Post 48.
Hickory tries to improve on its 3-2 league record when it returns to Area IV West Division play on the road Friday against Asheville (3-2, 3-2) — the first of three-straight days of competition.
Post 48 comes home on Saturday against Caldwell County (10-1, 4-0) before hitting the road Sunday against Burke County (2-4, 2-4).
All three contests are set for a 7 p.m. first pitch.
"We're getting geared up for next week," Rembert said. "We're going to take a few days off, re-charge the batteries and competition starts Friday night going to Asheville. Overall, today was a good win."