Garner Post 232 coach Chris Cook is very much a National League style of manager in that he is not afraid of trying to manufacture runs through bunting guys over, stealing bases and putting on hit and runs.
And although his team is adept at executing whatever their coach calls for them to do, at times this season Garner Post 232 has looked more like an American League style team able to rely on big innings to pile up the runs and ultimately the wins.
Never was that more the case than in Garner’s midweek home-and-home set against Cary Post 67 in which Garner used one explosive inning in each contest to take control and gather two more wins in what has been a scorching 12-1 start to the American Legion season.
“That’s been kind of typical for us,” Cook said. “I hate to say it, but sometimes we play for the big inning.”
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In Garner’s opening 7-6 win against Cary Tuesday night, a big five-run fifth inning that featured an Addison Braswell two-run homer eliminated a 6-1 Cary lead.
Braswell then reached first base again in the bottom of the ninth before DJ Burt tripled to right center to bring Braswell all the way around for the win.
At Cary on Wednesday night, Garner used a ten-run explosion in the eighth inning to turn what was a pitcher’s duel through seven innings to anything but in a 12-1 triumph.
For Cary coach Robert Stephenson, there was a silver lining to be found for his young ball club despite the two tough defeats.
“Two nights in a row, we were right with what I think is one of the best teams in the state,” Stephenson said. “We’ve got enough pitching to compete with anybody. We’re still developing enough of a bullpen to compete on multiple nights in a row against this level of competition and we’re just not there yet.”
Ben Kerner took the mound for Post 67 (1-4) in the second contest and the Cary High pitcher looked right at home preventing the typical big Garner inning from materializing.
Garner touched Kerner up for a run apiece in the first two innings of the contest but the right hander settled in and at one point and retired 13 of 14 batters faced.
“He came out tonight and he pitched a masterpiece against one of the best teams in the state,” Stephenson said of his starting pitcher. “He mixed up his pitches, changed speeds, changed arm angles and kept them off balance for a long time until his pitch count just got to the point that we just had to pull him out.”
Unfortunately for Post 67, Garner starting pitcher Tyler Marshburn was every bit of Kerner’s equal Wednesday night. Marshburn struck out ten batters, walked none and allowed just the one run during his three-hit complete game victory.
“When you have someone throwing up zeros, it gives a lot of confidence to the offense and we just had a big inning,” Cook said. “He’s capable of pitching and tonight he was pretty good.”
Marshburn retired 15 of 16 batters during one stretch as he shut down the Cary bats similar to Kyle Boraski who came on in relief to get the win Tuesday night for Garner with five shutout innings.
Garner sent 14 batters to the plate in the ten-run eighth inning. Marshburn helped his own cause with a pair of RBI singles in the inning. Brighton Hudson, Zak Orrison and CJ Schmitt all drove in runs as well.
Jonathon Grudee was the only Cary batter to reach base safely more than once and accounted for Cary’s lone run in the Wednesday night contest as his leadoff single and subsequent stolen base allowed for him to score on a passed ball in the first inning.