Too bad for the Garner Nationals that it wasn’t a conference game.
And that was about the only good news for Cary Post 67 in their American Legion baseball meeting on Wednesday night at Green Hope High.
Cole Hinnant homered and doubled for three RBIs, pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing three runs to power Garner to a 16-3 win that was stopped after six innings.
The victory improved Garner, which is 1-0 in Area I West play, to 4-4 on the season while host Cary dropped to 1-5 before its conference opener. The teams added this game after anticipated games with a Rocky Mount team – that didn’t form – went away.
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“I thought Hinnant really looked good,” Garner coach Chris Cook said. “As far as our offense is concerned, it’s easy to have bad at-bats when you get ahead, but I was happy we continued to have good at-bats throughout the game.
“We hit like that for the first time in our win at Apex on Monday. I know Cary was in a tough spot because they have conference games against Apex on Friday and Saturday.”
Garner finished with 10 hits to five for Cary.
Hinnant, a Clayton High senior bound for Francis Marion in the fall, struck out four against three walks while allowing four hits in his first outing of the summer. Robbie Frongiello, who had a double, a single and a sacrifice fly for four RBI, came on to finish.
Southpaw Cameron McNabb took the loss, allowing seven runs (six earned) on seven hits while striking out five against three walks.
“We just made too many errors that opened up a close ball game,” Cary coach Bob Cadran said. “We’ve made a habit of making critical errors to turn close games into games like tonight.
“Most of these kids were playing Junior (Legion Cary) Bulls last year. We’ve got a young team and we have trouble with those big innings.”
The hosts took a 1-0 lead in the first when Athens Drive graduate Justin Christian ripped a two-out double to left and scored on Jacob Tully’s single to right.
Garner tied it in the second as Green Hoep grad Matt Duckworth doubled and scored on Frongello’s sac fly to right. The Nationals added single runs in the third and fourth innings before Cary cut it to 3-2 in the bottom of the frame as Tully led off with a single and McNabb scored him in a fielder’s choice ball to second.
“I was just looking for something straight so I could stay inside of it and hit it up the middle,” said Frongello, a rising junior at Middle Creek. “I didn’t know how long I was going to pitch, so with that kind of lead I was just trying to throw strikes, keep it down and let my defense work.
“It’s good to play at this level. I’m learning a lot from the older guys.”
The floodgates opened in the fifth as the visitors scored six runs – with Frongello’s two-run double the centerpiece — to end McNabb’s outing and bring on Tyler Brosius (no known relation to the current Carolina Mudcat and former N.C. State quarterback).
Hinnant’s three-run homer was the key hit as Garner put it out of hand with seven more runs in the sixth.
“I was seeing the ball really well at the plate,” Hinnant said. “I was having a hard time locating my first pitch for strikes, but it all worked out well in the end. I was able to make adjustments with my fastball.
“Tonight, we were all more focused at the plate and I think we were all seeing the ball better.”
Christian said he expects the young Cary team to continue to improve.
“Hinnant was throwing well on the outside corner and he was also jamming pretty well on the inside,” said Christian. “He worked fast and made us get into the box quickly.
“We just had one tough inning and couldn’t make up for it.”
Addona, pitchers carry Garner by Apex
The Garner Nationals opened Area I West Conference play in American Legion Baseball with a 10-4 victory over Apex Post 124 on Monday night at Apex High School.
Third baseman Vincent Addona was 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI for the Nationals (3-4 overall) in the victory.
Garner took control of the game with three-run outputs in the third and fourth innings.
Defensively, Addona, a Green Hope graduate and William and Mary recruit, flashed some glove in the bottom of the fifth. He grabbed a hard liner with the bases loaded and one out for Apex, throwing home to Trevor Heasley to keep the Garner lead at 7-2. After Post 124 loaded the bases with nobody out, Garner got out of the inning without allowing any runs.
Ryan Lee got the win for the Nationals with six innings of work and two runs allowed. Matt Duckworth pitched the final two innings without allowing an Apex run. Duckworth threw out a runner at the plate in the Apex second.
Middle Creek’s Trevor Heasley and Diego Guerrero drove in two runs each as well for Garner.
Holly Springs High’s Chase Hetzel was 2-for-4 for Apex in the loss.