When it needed runs the most on Wednesday, Hickory's bats just couldn't produce on offense.
Post 48 stranded 10 runners on base in a 5-3 series-opening loss to the Gaston Braves at Red Raider Field on the campus of South Point High School.
"We just didn't have a good outing tonight," said Post 48 head coach Fore Rembert. "I thought our plate appearances were terrible. I thought we had a couple of good individual performances, but we are a team. That's the big thing. We've got to play as a team. Tonight, we kept it close and had a chance to win at the end or tie it up."
Gaston (15-5) took control of the game in the bottom of the second inning. Tanner Muse and Aaron Biggerstaff both reached base and scored later on a wild pitch and passed ball, respectively.
The Braves added to their lead in the next inning with four-straight singles, including RBI hits by Muse and Biggerstaff. Muse went 4-for-4 from the plate in Wednesday's contest.
Hickory's Dylan Beiland exited the mound after 4.1 innings, breaking a streak of five consecutive complete game performances by Post 48 pitchers.
Kyle Kelly and Colton Chapman combined to pitch the final 4.2 innings in relief for Hickory.
"I thought the pitching was good for the most part," Rembert said. "There are a couple of things we could have done better and been more consistent with on strike two. Kyle (Kelly) came in and threw well. I thought (Dylan) Beiland came in and threw a couple of good innings. With the exception of a couple of pitches, I thought our pitchers threw well. We had a couple of passed balls and maybe one wild pitch that led to two runs. That is what we got beat by."
Churning away at its deficit, Hickory (17-8) got on the scoreboard in the fourth inning on Phillip Carroll's RBI double, which plated Colton Chapman.
Two innings later, Carroll hit a solo home run to deep right-center field to cut Gaston's lead to 4-2.
"I thought Phillip had some good at bats and had good leadership for us," Rembert said of Carroll. "We just need to be better."
Although Carroll produced with two hits on offense, the rest of his teammates went 5-for-35 (.142) from the plate, stranding the bases loaded in the sixth inning and runners on first and second in the eighth.
"We left a ton of runners on base," Rembert said. "I think it was eight or nine. We normally plate four or five of those."
Despite struggles on offense, Hickory committed no errors defensively.
One of the bright spots on the night for Post 48 was a diving catch by left fielder Ky'rawn Whitfield over top of Carroll in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Gaston added an insurance run in the bottom of the eighth inning with a Thomas Nantz RBI single, which scored Jarke Hopkins.
After grounding into a double play to start the ninth inning, the last gasp for Post 48 in Wednesday's ballgame came in the form of an RBI single from Zach Jarrett.
However, Hickory would get no closer, and Gaston took a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Hickory will try to bounce back in game two of the Area IV second round playoff series on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Henkel-Alley Field.
Colton Allison, who tossed a complete game six-hitter in an 8-0 victory against Kings Mountain last week, is expected to start on the mound for Post 48 on Thursday.
Rembert is confident that his team will regain its footing from tough loss.
"We'll bounce back tomorrow and get going," he said. "We've been playing some good baseball. We'll be fine. I've got all of the confidence in the world in my guys. I'm irritated right now, but I've got all of the confidence in the world in them. We'll bounce back and be good to go."