By MIKE DUPREZ
Eastern Randolph bounced back from a Game 1 loss in their best-of-three Area III quarterfinal series. That got Post 81 into the semifinal series against Rowan County with a state tournament berth on the line.
But it ended without another pitch thrown.
Post 81 was forced to forfeit the series due to not having enough players available, ending their season in heartbreaking fashion.
“We hate for our players, coaches and fans as this season has been one of the most successful in Post 81 history,” Post 81 said in a statement. “It can’t be said enough that this group was special, and the work these players put in is above all in contributing to the success we had this season.”
Post 81 ended the season with a 17-10 record.
The county’s other American Legion team, Post 45, advanced to the semifinals with a dominating sweep of Mooresville.
Here’s a look at what happened.
Randolph County, as the Area III Northern Division regular season champion, received a bye in the first round of the area playoffs. In the quarterfinal round, Post 45 swept Mooresville, the No. 4 seed from the Southern Division, 2-0 in the best-of-three series.
And it was a rout.
Post 45 won the games 16-0 and 9-0. In the first game, Tanner Marsh and Drew Harmon each drove in four runs while Trey Way was 3-for-4. Robert Garner pitched four innings, allowing two hits and striking out three. Braylen Hayes pitched the fifth inning.
In the second game, Adam Cole and Carson Whitehead were both 2-for-3 with an RBI. Blake Marsh tripled and drove in three runs. Tanner Marsh had a double and two RBIs.
Way pitched four innings, giving up three hits and striking out six. Blake Marsh went two scoreless innings and struck out four. Connor Adams pitched the seventh inning, striking out one.
The sweep put Randolph County (24-8) into a best-of-five semifinal series with Kannapolis (18-7), the No. 2 seed from the Southern Division. The winner secures a state tournament berth.
Eastern Randolph beat Stanly County 2-1 in their best-of-three quarterfinal series.
Post 81 fell 7-6 in Game 1 after rallying from a 6-0 deficit. Luke Thomas had two hits and an RBI while Parker Evans drove in two runs. Carson Rickman pitched the last two innings and got the loss.
A rainout forced the teams to play a doubleheader last Thursday at Post 81’s Craven Stadium in Ramseur. It worked out quite well for Eastern Randolph, which swept the two games 13-4 and 13-3 to win the series.
Thomas had a big day at the plate and on the mound. The UNC Greensboro signee was 4-for-8 and pitched five innings in the first game, striking out 10.
Chance Terry was 5-for-7 and Samuel Asbill got the win in the second game, striking out three in five innings.