By Dennis Burton
GARNER – Turnabout is fair play.
In game one of the American Legion Area 1 semifinal series, Cary Post 67 came from behind in the ninth inning to steal a 4-3 win and a one game to zero lead. On Friday, Garner returned the favor.
Post 232 used a big seventh inning to snatch a 5-3 come-from-behind victory, evening the series at a game apiece.
“Cary has a good baseball team,” Garner manager Chris Cook said. “And so far in 18 innings of baseball, we’ve shut them out in 14 of them. Our pitchers kept us in this game, and we were able to get the big hit. We hadn’t been able to do that so far in the series.”
After a scoreless first inning, Cary got on the board with help from the bottom of its lineup. The sixth, seventh and eighth batters – Tyler Lapp, Nick Addona and Anthony Colantino respectively – each singled with one out in the inning to give Post 67 its first lead of the game.
Colantino’s knock plated Lapp, who had moved to second on Addona’s single.
After minimizing the damage in the second, Garner starter Travis Long settled down and kept Cary off the scoreboard for the next two innings. In the fifth, however, Post 67 took advantage of some control issues and two passed balls to push its lead to three.
David Hamm drew a walk with one out and scored on a Jonathan Grudee double. Grudee moved to third on the first ball passed the catcher and scored a couple of pitches later on the second one.
Meanwhile, Cary starter Joe Pistacchio continued to roll.
Through the first five innings, the crafty right-hander allowed just three batters to reach base. Post 232 managed to put a couple of runners on base in the sixth, but Pistacchio preserved the shutout with a force out and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the seventh, he wasn’t as fortunate. Garner loaded the bases with two outs, and Jesse Fisher drove in two runs with a single up the middle to pull Post 232 to within a run.
“We faced Joe last year in an elimination game,” Cook said. “We loaded the bases on him then, but we couldn’t score. It worked out for us this time.”
Blair Betts entered in relief, inheriting runners at second and third, but he couldn’t stop the bleeding. He faced just two batters, walking one and surrendering a bases-clearing three-run double to Brandon Tant.
Daniel Sondag, the third Post 67 pitcher of the inning, finally got that elusive third out, but the damage had already been done. Post 232 took a 5-3 lead into the eighth inning and never looked back.
“Garner didn’t give up,” Cary manager Robert Stephenson said. “They hung around and kept playing, and when our pitcher got tired they took advantage.”
Garner reliever Joe Mackey closed out the final two innings to seal the victory and send the series to a deciding third game.
“I’m sure I feel like Chris does about game three,” Stephenson said. “These are two evenly matched teams. Both have good pitching and defense. It’ll probably boil down to who gets the bounces.”
The winner will face whichever team comes out of the Clayton/Northern Chatham series in the finals.