Patient Post 48 rallies past Rutherford for first victory

Cody Dalton
Sports Editor

Struggling to bring across a run in the first three innings of Wednesday’s season opener against Rutherford County, head coach Cameron Beard told his Hickory Post 48 baseball players to remain patient.

Scoring two runs each in the sixth and seventh innings, Hickory rallied its way to a 4-3 victory against Post 423 at McNair Field in Forest City.

Post 48 (1-0) stranded eight of its nine base runners in Wednesday’s game during the first three innings of the contest, and it gave up one run each in the second and third innings to Rutherford County (0-1).

“Early on, we didn’t capitalize on some chances,” said Beard, who enters his third season as the head coach of Hickory Post 48. “We had their starting pitcher (Matthew Dailey) up to 65 pitches in the first two innings. He did a great job of settling down and threw pretty good. I told our guys if we could just stay the course, stay with it, keep having great at bats and competing at the plate, we can get to their bullpen. If we could get there, I felt a lot better.”

Despite accumulating base runners in the early stages of Wednesday’s game, Hickory remained hitless until the fourth inning of the contest when second baseman Walker Hanvey singled to shallow center field.

Hanvey would prove later in the game to be a spark plug for Post 48, driving in the game’s first run on a single in the sixth. Teammate Jason Bright added an RBI single in the inning, tying the contest.

Beard said it was great to see Hanvey back in action for the first time in almost a year.

“He’s a third-year guy who hadn’t played all year coming back from N.C. State as a student,” Beard said of Hanvey. “We put him in the nine hole hoping to get him a lot of fast balls early in the year, and he did. In his second and third at bat, he took advantage of them. He got us started, and everyone kind of rallied off him. I was really happy to see Walker do that for us.”

Carrrying its momentum, Hickory pulled ahead for good in the seventh inning when third baseman Cooper Wray doubled to score first baseman Skylar Yoder, and right fielder MacLindsay Mitchell added another run on a fielder’s choice RBI, which scored Wray.

On the mound, Post 48 starter Josh McKinney had a solid first outing, giving up four hits, two runs (one earned), two walks and striking out five in seven innings.

“Josh did a great job,” Beard said. “I told him that help was coming offensively and to stay with it. He did a great job of getting us to the seventh inning. Josh did a great job of competing.”

Caleb Lutjens and Harry Hatcher combined to close out the final two innings on the mound, allowing just one hit, one walk and one earned run.

Hatcher, last year’s team leader in wins as a starter, earned the save.

Up next for Hickory is a match up at Burke County Post 21 on Thursday.

Beard said Mitchell will start on the mound, and Post 48 will also have the addition of four players — all Bunker Hill athletes who missed Wednesday’s opener due to an athletic banquet.

“This is a great win, and it’s always good to win the first one, but it’s a marathon not a sprint,” Beard said. “This season is a grind for a month and a half. We’ve got to get right back at it Thursday. We don’t have time to celebrate long because Burke County will be ready, and they’ve got a good ball club. We’ll have a full squad. We’re ready to get after it at Burke.”