Caldwell County Post 29 got fed a steady diet of curveballs Monday and Tuesday night.
Far more than the American Legion baseball team could digest in the deciding game of its Area IV championship series with Haywood County Post 47.
Tuscola rising senior Jake Sutton’s bender was working. So there wasn’t much reason to diversify throughout a 2-1 victory in Granite Falls.
Sutton pitched an eight-inning complete game. And Haywood County (25-5) collected its 10th straight win and first-ever area title in Legion play.
Now a season without any precedence turns to Salisbury.
Post 47 will make its first-ever appearance in the American Legion state tournament starting with Friday’s first-round matchup against Eastern Randolph (25-11) at noon.
The double-elimination tournament runs through next Tuesday.
Sutton said he sprinkled in an occasional fastball and changeup against Caldwell County. His start began with Monday’s weather-suspended game in Waynesville (a game that went less than two innings at Lake Junaluska Elementary School) and continued Tuesday at Caldwell County.
“We’re pretty fired-up and super-excited about making it this far,” said Sutton, who scattered five hits, one run (none earned), one walk and four strikeouts.
“We had a good feeling that we were going to win (Tuesday). Everyone was pumped-up.”
Caldwell County is hosting the Junior Legion state tournament this week which affected the scheduling of the Caldwell-Haywood series.
American Legion officials told Post 47 coaches and players that if Tuesday’s Game 2 did not begin by 7 p.m., they would automatically be declared champions. The game started around 7:30, but Haywood County coaches and players chose to stick around rather than accept a forfeit.
Post 47 beat Caldwell County, 5-4, in Game 1 of the best-of-three series on Sunday.
“As a group, we decided to stay and show that we were going to win no matter what,” Sutton said.
“We didn’t want to give anyone any excuses.”
Post 47 only had three hits in Game 2, including a fourth-inning RBI single and leadoff double in the eighth from Florida State recruit Cal Raleigh. Gardner-Webb recruit Mason Fox also had a single. Hunter Stewart was the player who drew a bases-loaded walk in the eighth inning.
American Legion baseball will cover the hotel costs for Haywood County during its stay in Salisbury. In terms of winning percentage, Post 47 has the best record of anyone in the eight-team field.
“From here on out, we’re not expecting a blowout game unless someone happens to run out of pitching and it’s just a unique situation,” Post 47 coach Mitchell Whitner said.
“We’ve been in some real battles, a lot of extra-inning games. And a lot of them have been on the road. I think it has definitely prepared us. The confidence level is high with this group and I feel good about our chances.”