AMEL

Donovan Murphy (right) and Alex Balisteri celebrate Murphy's solo home run that was hit during the fourth inning of American Legion Post 201's home game versus 361 on June 25. Post 201 won 7-4.

POWHATAN - With each at-bat, Donovan Murphy's rocketing hits to right field flew higher and higher.

The first was a grounder that skipped once but zipped deep into the green to lift Post 201 into the lead.

The second was a double that the St. Christopher's alum slammed to the fence to send Alex Balisteri across home plate.

The third was the charmer.

The no-doubter sailed over the right field fence to the tune of one of Murphy's teammates calling out that he knew it was going to happen, and Murphy rounded the bases after clobbering the full-count pitch for a solo home run against two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning.

"The first base coach the previous at-bat thought the double I hit was going out, and I said, 'Coach, don't worry,'" Murphy said. "'We've got a little bit of game left, so I'll try and do my best.'"

Murphy's blast capped a strong four-inning hitting performance that helped Post 201 fend off visiting Post 361's four-run surge in the top of the fifth for a 7-4 victory Tuesday evening. Midlothian's Alex Kyte pitched four scoreless innings for the win on the mound, limiting the opponents to two hits and three base runners in those frames.

It was a bounce-back effort for the lefty after he took a tough loss on the hill against the Post 284 Bucs the previous week. He said it was a matter of fixing his spots and improving on locating his pitches as well as hitting the outside corner. Kyte was mixing fastball with curveball while tossing in the occasional changeup; he focused on throwing from corner to corner, and he also got batters to swing and miss on some of his lower pitches.

Murphy led Post 201 on offense with a 3-for-3 statline that featured the homer, a double and three RBIs. He observed that the pitchers he and his teammates faced on Tuesday were struggling with getting ahead in the count.

"Once they didn't get ahead, I knew they were gonna have to throw me a fastball over the plate because they didn't want to walk me," Murphy said, "so I was just sitting on fastball and then reacting curveball if they threw it, but I felt like there was a strong likelihood they were gonna throw a fastball."

He was then let on base in his fourth plate appearance on an intentional walk in the sixth. On the fielding side, he added a sliding catch underneath a shallow fly on a sprinting inside rundown from first base late in the game.

Balisteri batted 2-for-4 with a triple that he hammered to right-center in the third inning.

"Just try to hit the ball hard," was Balisteri's approach. "Just get my timing right and just try to explode on the ball."

The James River High School standout scored two runs, stealing home on his first trip across the bag in the opening inning.

He extended his talents to the pitcher's mound in the top of the sixth. Stepping onto the hill with no outs and runners on the corners, he allowed only one more runner on base and kept the visitors off of home plate while dealing the heat to fan two of the four batters he faced in the frame.

"Every time I came in to pitch at James River it was a situation like that," Balisteri said. "I'm just used to it by now because of the high school season."

He kept the fastballs coming and secured the save by striking out the side, 1-2-3, in the seventh. He rallied back from a 3-1 count to K the last batter of the night.

Post 201 laced together four runs in the third frame with four at-bats driving in one run each. The inning was sparked by back-to-back extra-base hits from Balisteri and Murphy, and then capped by Powhatan's Cameron Sprouse reaching second on an RBI rocket to right-center.

"We hit well," Post 201 Baseball head coach Eric Mead said. "We can hit all the way through the lineup. We've got some really good hitters...there's not any holes in our hitting lineup."

"I feel like, everyone in our order, there's no easy out," Balisteri contributed. "Everyone puts the ball in play. Everyone can hit. It's tough for teams to try to deal with."

Right now, Post 201 is trying to strengthen the middle side of its bull pen so that its pitchers can provide their team with strong mid-game relief on the mound by the time the remaining two-thirds of the season roll around. While Kyte at the start and Balisteri at the end combined to hold Post 361 to two hits and no runs, the middle of the bullpen surrendered four runs in the fifth inning and several hits across the fifth and sixth frames.

"We're working some kids in there that haven't pitched probably since 8th grade, 9th grade," Mead said. "You're bringing kids off the field that haven't pitched in a long time, they're getting out there on the mound...and sometimes it takes a little while."

He added: "We're learning every single day what these pitchers can do and where they need to be."

With the victory, the Dirt Sox rebounded from back-to-back losses and are gearing up for Thursday's home game versus Post 175 at 7 p.m.

"It was good to have an all-around performance..." Murphy said. "It got close at the end, but we came together and did what we needed to do to get the win."

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