Legion Tournament: Hope Mills surges past Caldwell in opening game
SALISBURY – Hope Mills shook off the effects of a slow start and rallied past Caldwell County Friday morning to kick off the state American Legion baseball tournament with a 6-2 win at Newman Park.
Hope Mills, the Area II champion, fell behind 2-0 right off the bat and was unable to get untracked until an explosive sixth inning when it finally solved Caldwell starter Taylor Purus with six runs on four hits and a pair of timely walks.
Winning pitcher Justin Huggins overcame his own early demons to earn a complete game victory including eight strikeouts. After a 22-pitch first inning featuring three hits, a walk and two sacrifice bunts, Huggins settled in to blank Post 29 the rest of the way on five singles.
“That is how it has been for Huggins all year, ” Hope Mills coach Mark Kahlenberg said. “But our defense was not helping him a whole lot early. But after the first couple of innings we shook off the nerves and cobwebs and did a good job after that.”
The turning point came in the top of the second when Caldwell (27-12) loaded the bases on a pair of dropped fly balls in left and a walk. But Huggins, a right hander who pitches at Wake Tech in the school season, wriggled out of the jam with a pair of ground ball outs to keep the deficit at 2-0.
Hope Mills (22-5) had just 3 hits off Purus heading into the sixth when Garret Johnson singled and Logan Hales reached safely on a bunt hit. Purus then issued consecutive walks to make it 2-1 and gave way to reliever Tre Harper with the bases loaded. A wild pitch tied the score. Then Austin Warren put Hope Mills ahead with a single to left. One out later, Trey Jacobs boomed a double to the gap in left-center to plate two more and make it 5-2.
A ground out RBI by Trey Davis closed out the big scoring burst for the 6-2 lead.
Caldwell managed just one hit over the final three innings off Huggins to go down quietly. Hales led the winners with a perfect 4-for-4 game while Jacobs had three hits and his two RBIs. Harper and Mason Biddix led Caldwell with two hits each.
Hope Mills, which appeared in last year’s state Legion tourney but exited quickly, now advances in the winners bracket to face High Point Post 87 at 4:30 pm Saturday. Caldwell County will take on the Garner Nationals in an elimination game Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.
Caldwell County 200 000 000 – 2 8 1
Hope Mills 000 006 00x – 6 12 3
WP – Justin Huggins
LP – Taylor Purus
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