The best approach in any tournament situation, even a double-elimination one like the N.C. American Legion Baseball state tournament is to just win.
Garner Post 232 has won all season and did against Friday in its opener, topping Jacksonville Post 265, 4-2, behind solid pitching from Jake Ellington and Graham Edwards and a three-run blast from Tyler Marshburn.
Post 232 (25-3) will meet Shelby in the winner’s bracket semifinals at 4:30 Saturday back at Fleming Stadium in Wilson. Win or lose, Garner will be back in action on Sunday. The tournament continues through Tuesday.
Jacksonville put together a 10-hit attack and led 1-0 in the fourth when Zack Orrison singled with an out, then stole second and third bases to give Garrett Suggs a chance to pull Garner even with a ball hit to the right spot.
Suggs did just that, lifting a fly ball to left field that allowed Orrison to tag and come home. Orrison stole three bases on the day, while Suggs stole a pair.
Taylor Stephens’ stolen base gave Post 232 runners a half-dozen, all basically coming off of Jacksonville pitchers Adam Daley and Sean Burke.
“It’s just basically all about what I’m seeing from the pitcher once guys get on base,” Orrison said of the steals. “Then it’s just a matter of having confidence. Confidence that you can get there.”
An inning later, Garner’s N Stuart walked and Stephens singled giving Marshburn a chance for a big two-out hit. Marshburn, Garner grad, delivered launching a 3-2 pitch from Daley over the left field wall for a 4-1 lead.
“It was a 3-2 count and he hadn’t gone to an off-speed pitch on a 3-2 count to any batter,” Marshburn said of his blast. “So I was just sitting dead red on a fastball and I got one.”
Ellington gave up seven hits to Post 265 but always got out of any danger without giving up a big hit like Marshburn’s.
Back-to-back hits by Madison Malfitano and Adam Hartness put two runners in scoring position with nobody out to start the Jacksonville ninth inning, but Edwards got a pop up out for the first out, then a ground ball out (which scored Malfitano) before Spencer Howard popped up to end the contest.
“Jake’s a reliever mostly for us but we had confidence he would give us a good start,” said Garner manager Chris Cook. “He went five innings and gave up one run, which is a good outing for a starter or a reliever. Then Graham came in and just gave up a run in four innings.”
Garner had just six hits against the two lefties from Post 265.
“Left-handed pitching is going to be tough for us, because of how many left-handed batters we have,” Cook said. “But we got the win, which is all you want in a tournament situation.”