Just a few more pitches might have decided it.
But Johnston County Post 71 didn’t get that kind of break from the weather Friday night.
So with a 9-0 lead in the top of the fifth after light rain with heavier thunder and lightning caused a suspension, the Sabres will head to Garner to complete the opener of their three-game set with Post 232 Saturday afternoon at 5.
A nine-inning regularly-scheduled game will follow, with the teams’ regular-season American Legion finale back in Smithfield on Sunday at 4.
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Kodi Whitley was on the mound for Post 71 (10-4, 6-0 in division play), allowing just one hit and a walk with seven strikeouts through the four-plus innings. Johnston coach Stephen Nordan said Whitley may continue on Saturday, but said he didn’t want to discuss anything else about the game to jinx a good thing.
Fuquay-Varina alum Perry Gray, a lefty who has committed to Wake Tech, was on the hill for Garner (13-1, 6-0).
“Their starting pitcher was solid and ours wasn’t,” Garner coach Chris Cook said. “That’s what made the difference.”
Whitley was just happy to be getting all the run support early.
“I thought I was pitching good and hitting my spots pretty well, just trying to let the defense do the work,” said Whitley, a Cleveland High alumnus who has signed with Mount Olive. “It’s easy to pitch when you’ve got nine runs on the board.”
Post 71 has eight hits including a three-run homer and a double from Matt Parrish, a double and a single each from Justin Carroll and Jacob Willis and a solo homer from Ben Youngblood.
Youngblood put a 3-2 offering over the fence in left center to lead off the third.
“I hadn’t hit one since high school so it was good to finally get one,” said the Smithfield-Selma alum, who is a rising sophomore at Barton. “He just left a pitch up that I could handle.
“We really didn’t know what to expect coming in. I think dropping a four-spot on them in the first inning got to them a little bit.”