POWHATAN - Last week, American Legion Post 201 Baseball head coach Eric Mead pointed out that his team still needed to develop its middle relief in the pitching rotation.
On Tuesday, the midgame pitchers shined as a collective highlight for the Dirt Sox, who showed improvement in their rematch with Post 284.
While the Bucs ultimately pulled away in the seventh inning on two big extra-base hits to defeat Post 201, 6-2, the Dirt Sox - who earlier in the year fell to Post 284, 13-3 - stayed with the visitors through the first six frames, trailing 3-2 in a tight ballgame.
"Pitching is about throwing strikes and consistently getting across the plate and being able to play between the lines," Mead said. "I think we did that very well tonight."
The Dirt Sox threw a couple of pitchers who had yet to pitch in the American Legion season. Starting pitcher Stone Talley (two strikeouts), Mead said, looked really good in his three innings on the mound, and left-handed pitcher Jacob Frame, who hadn't thrown all year and was coming off of a significant injury from high school, locked down the Bucs' bats through the fourth and fifth innings, allowing one hit in that stretch. In the sixth inning, he got some help from Blessed Sacrament Huguenot alum Reilly Dickerson, who retired both of the batters he faced.
"Reilly Dickerson came in and did exactly what Reilly Dickerson's supposed to do in that one inning..." Mead said. "I thought we did good - we just didn't score the runs we needed to score, made some base running mistakes."
Post 284 jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first half-inning as the top three strung together back-to-back-to-back quality at-bats; Nathan Tuck singled up the center, Drew Camp floated an RBI triple deep into right field and Brandon Pond plated Camp on the sacrifice fly.
The Dirt Sox gained back a run in the bottom of the frame as lead-off batter Tommy Preston slammed a double to the right-center fence, moved to third base on Trevor Waters' sacrifice bunt and scored off of Donovan Murphy's RBI single that he hit to right-center. The two teams then traded one run each as Pond hit another sac fly to plate Tuck in the third, and Post 201's Josh Boelt skipped an RBI grounder into right field to bring home Talley in the fourth.
But the Bucs gained insurance in the seventh from Justin Parker, who smacked an RBI double down the third base line and into the left field corner, and from Camp, who sent a two-run blast into orbit.
For 284, Camp batted 2-for-3 with a triple, the two-run home run, three RBIs and two runs scored. Tuck batted 2-for-4 and scored two runs and Pond had two RBIs.
For 201, Waters batted 2-for-4, and Preston and Chase Gayness each hit a double, with Preston adding a run scored. In spite of the loss, Post 201's pitching staff held Post 284 to six hits. Post 284 also held Post 201 to six hits, with Ryan Hayzlett (5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts) getting the win in six innings pitched.
Mead emphasized that, with American Legion Baseball, "it's not about what you do at the beginning, because it's all a learning phase in the first half of the season."
"You take your bumps and your lumps as you go," he said, "and then try to get it all together for the end."
And he feels that they're setting up well when it comes to going into that closing stretch. They're returning a couple of strong arms next Sunday before bringing back one more the following week.
"I think the bullpen's going to tighten up," Mead said. "We've got that middle relief taken care of, so I'm looking forward to a really good last part of the season."