ROCKY MOUNT — Cary Post 67 Bulls coach Scott Pose instructed his American Senior Legion baseball players to huddle up following a 10-9 loss to Rocky Mount’s Coleman-Pitt Post 58 Saturday night at Legion Field.
“Down the right field line, gentlemen,” Pose said as the players circled back toward their dugout from the post-game handshakes.
Cary had just been eliminated from the first round of the Western Division Area 1 playoffs in a best-of-three series played over the Fourth of July weekend.
“I told them I was proud of each and every one of them,” Pose said. “They played the game the right way and with class. I told them to call me if they need anything. I care about all these kids and want to see them be successful.”
Fireworks were not the only display throughout the holiday series, with a combined 70 runs. There was only a two-run overall margin of 36-34 favoring Rocky Mount.
Cary, which entered the playoffs with a 3-6 record to finish the season with a 4-8 mark, won the opener Thursday at Legion Field in wind and rain from Hurricane Arthur off the North Carolina coast.
The teams gathered a day later on the Fourth of July and played before an unusually large crowd of 100-plus fans for afternoon Legion baseball; Rocky Mount won 13-10 to even the series.
In the decisive game, Cary ran out of pitchers. Rocky Mount overcame deficits of 6-3 after 3 ½ innings, 7-5 after 5, 9-6 after 6 ½ and finally 9-8 after 7 ½.
“We were running on fumes out there,” Pose said of using four pitchers, with three in the last four innings.
Cary’s Nick Venditti, an Athens Drive shortstop as a senior last spring, was forced into a pitching role when he shifted to the mound in the bottom of the seventh. He coaxed an infield pop-up to end Rocky’s Mount’s two-run rally that trimmed the deficit to 9-8.
In the eighth, Venditti threw fastballs and struck out the first two batters, but the ball got away from catcher Jake Tully on the second “K.” Rocky Mount’s David Williams beat the throw to first. After a walk put two runners on base, Venditti’s fastball recorded a third strikeout that should have ended the inning. But Cary needed four outs following the passed ball. A subsequent single to right field scored the tying and go-ahead runs.
Despite the early playoff exit, Venditti said he and his teammates gained from the summer baseball. Venditti hopes to play in college as a walk-on at East Carolina.
“Legion baseball helped me,” said Venditti, who also scored two runs with an RBI. “There is a lot of talent out here and you see a lot of good pitchers. We’re disappointed with the loss, but we’re all trying to keep playing baseball, and the experience helped.”