Post 34 pounded in tourney opener

Tuscaloosa Post 34’s Slayton Thompson was 1-for-3 at the plate and scored one run during Thursday’s Southeast Regional tournament game against Florence, S.C. (Photo by Photo | MICHAEL CHRISTOPHER, THE ITEM, Sumter, S.C.)

SUMTER, S.C. | Florence Post 1 banged out 17 hits to cruise to a 16-4 win over Alabama state champion Tuscaloosa Post 34 in their opening game in the American Legion baseball Southeast Regional on Thursday.

Post 34 (45-10) plays Shelbyville, Ky., at 9 this morning in an elimination game. Post 1, the South Carolina state champion, takes on Virginia state champion Lynchburg at 3:30 today.

"We came out aggressive and swung the bats really well today" Post 1 coach Derick Urquhart said. "We wanted to try and play with the lead, because we didn’t know a lot about these guys (Post 34) and what to expect from them."

Post 1 also benefited from another winning performance by left-hander Chris Washington. Washington improved to 13-0 by limiting Post 34 to four hits and no earned runs in six innings.

Both teams committed four errors, but they proved to be more costly for Post 34, which handed Post 1 (36-4) a run in the first inning with a pair of infield errors and then committed a costly error in the second that led to six more runs.

"To say we were tight today would be a huge understatement," Post 34 coach Patrick Jones said. "What we saw from our guys today was a lesson in the fear of failure. Rather than trust the things that have allowed us to win 45 out of 55 games this year, for some reason, we felt like we had to do more than that to be successful today."

Post 1 grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when leadoff batter Tallon Tuner drew a walk off Post 34 starter Brad Phillips and was moved to second on Washington’s sacrifice bunt. After Phillips struck out Carnell Montgomery, Turner moved to third when shortstop Zach Evans booted Cameron McRae’s ground ball, and scored when Derrick Parnell followed with a ground ball that scooted past second baseman Austin Dickerson.

Florence’s infield defense was equally generous in the bottom of the first. Dickerson drew a one-out walk and was able to scoot to third when third baseman Fonta James misplayed Landon Andrews’ infield grounder. Dickerson scored from third on a double steal to tie the game at 1.

In the top of the second, Florence sent 11 men to the plate and grabbed a 7-1 advantage. Another Post 34 error and a two-run single by Parnell keyed the big inning.

But Post 34 fought back with three runs in the bottom of the second, with Dickerson’s two-out, two-run single making it 7-4.

"When we got to within 7-4, we were back in the game, but they kept adding to their lead and then we started trying to do too much at the plate and swung at some pitches we didn’t need to swing at," Jones said.

Montgomery doubled in Washington with two out in the third to push Florence’s lead to 8-4.

In the top of the fourth, Akeem Bostic singled with two out and scored when CJ Hopkins tripled to right field with two outs to make it 9-4. Hopkins scored on another Alabama error to give Florence a 10-4 lead.

McRae and Hopkins delivered 2-run singles in the fifth to stretch the Post 1 lead to 14-4. James added a two-run single in the seventh to make it 16-4. Brandon Bagette came in to relieve Washington in the top of the seventh and did not give up a run, which ended the game via the 10-run mercy rule.

Jones remains hopeful that his squad will get back to what has worked for them all season.

"We just need to stop trying to do more than we are capable of," Jones said. "We just need to settle down and remember what has worked for us up to that point, and if we do that, we will have a chance to still be playing on Monday."