Before the Garner Nationals took the field in the third game of their best-of-five American Legion Area I West championship series against Raleigh Post 1 Tuesday night, Garner coach Chris Cook wondered aloud about how his team would come out in the pivotal game.
Cook may have reached a few different conclusions over the course of the game but, in the end, the Nationals came out of the tilt in great fashion sporting a 14-11 victory and 2-1 series lead.
The Nationals saw an early 8-1 lead dissolve into an 11-8 deficit before a six-run eighth inning saved the day and put Garner into the drive’s seat, now needing to take just one more game to win the series.
“Baseball is like a boxing match,” Cook said after the game. “We hit them with a few in the first couple innings and they hit us with a few in the fourth, fifth and sixth.
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“They didn’t knock us out.”
Facing two outs in the top of the eighth inning, it looked as though the Nationals were down and out but a double from Zeke Barefoot drew Garner to within 11-9.
In the ensuing at-bat, Cole Hinnant’s long fly ball to right field was misjudged, allowing Robbie Frongello and Barefoot to come around to tie the ballgame.
Matthew Barefoot then doubled home Hinnant to give Garner the lead once again. Troy Maslowski and Kyle Hawley each followed suit with run-scoring singles to give the Nationals a big enough lead to hold on to in a game where it seemed no lead was safe.
Matthew Barefoot’s three-run double in the third gave Garner an 8-1 lead but Raleigh responded with runs in each of the next four innings.
Caleb Coyle supplied much of the firepower as he finished his night 3-for-5 at the plate with five runs batted in. Coyle stole home in the fourth inning and his two-run single in the fifth gave Post 1 its first lead of the game.
“Basically I just told them that they could have quit a lot earlier when they were down 8-1; instead they fought to the end and that’s all you can ask for,” Post 1 coach Aaron Rich said.
The two teams square off once again at Campbell University’s Jim Perry Stadium Thursday night in game four of the series