FARMVILLE – Now that the regular season is over, Pitt County Post 39 American Legion baseball coach Ryan Meadows plans to get some rest and enjoy some family time before the intensity of the playoffs cranks up.
His team made sure he can enjoy a few days off.
Post 39 ignited some pre-Fourth of July fireworks on Thursday night, launching a season-high six home runs in a 31-4, seven-inning humbling of pitching-depleted Farmville Post 151. Pitt County heads into the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the Area One East Division and riding a nine-game winning streak.
On second thought, perhaps it’s not time for a break.
“I’ll be happy to get back to playing,” a happy Sammy Craft said after a 5-for-6 night that included a homer, three runs scored and six RBI – he could have had eight, but Meadows resorted to station-to-station baseball in the late innings to try to keep the score from getting out of hand.
But Craft still was satisfied.
Sammy Craft gets a warm welcome from teammates after a two-run home run in the first inning. Craft finished 5-for-6 with four runs scored and six RBI.
“They come every once in a while,” he said of his big night at the plate. “I wish they came around more often. It was just a good game really to get us going into the playoffs, make sure we’re hitting good and pitching good.”
Thursday’s win completed a stretch of three league games that began with Post 39 (19-4, 10-2) dispatching of first-place challengers Wilson 17-1 on Tuesday and Wayne County 6-1 on Wednesday. The reward is a first-round bye and a break until Wednesday’s second round.
“Our plan this weekend is what we’ve been playing for all week, and that’s vacation time,” Meadows said. “I finally get spend some time with my family, as do all the coaches. Parents get to see their children a little bit instead of just doing their laundry at the end of the night.
“I’m really proud of our guys the way they’ve come together,’ Meadows said. “This has really become a complete baseball team. They came and strapped up this week and played well and took care of business. I’m really pleased with the effort.”
There was no relaxing against an overmatched Farmville team that Pitt County defeated 23-1 earlier this year – the previous high for runs for Post 39 in a season in which it has scored in double figures in 14 games and put up 16 or more nine times.
Pitt batted around in each of the first three innings and four times overall, scoring six runs in each of the first two innings, five in the third, three each in the fourth and fifth innings, then eight in a marathon seventh inning.
Post 39 finished with 23 hits with 13 players collecting at least one. Seventeen of the runs scored with two outs.
“I’m pretty confident whoever we’re playing we’re going to put runs on the board,” Craft said. “The only question is if our pitchers can hold ‘em. I feel like our pitchers tonight really showed that they can come through for us.”
Starter Chandler Hallow gave up a three-run homer to Zach Smith in the first and a run-scoring double to Aaron Thigpen in the second before Jacob Peaden, Tyler Conklin and Christian Stokes combined for five scoreless innings.
Post 39 leadoff hitter Greg Hardison slides in with a first-inning triple as Farmville third baseman Hunter Moore awaits a late throw.
Joining Craft in the homer parade were Greg Hardison (solo in the second), Hunter Christopher (two-run homer in the second), Tyshawn Barrett (solo in the fourth), Clay Wilson (three-run shot in the fifth) and Travis Cross (grand slam in the seventh). Cross also started the seventh with a triple.
Hardison added to a recent remarkable offensive stretch, coming just a double shy of hitting for the cycle, drawing a walk, driving in three runs and scoring two – all in just three innings. The UNC Greensboro signee now has 14 hits in his last 17 at-bats and has reached base in 17 of his last 20 plate appearances.
That’s the type of momentum Meadows wants to keep going.
“We want to keep playing,” he said. “This team’s playing really well. … We’re swinging the bats well. The best thing we can keep doing is keep playing, keep grinding, keep competing. That’s what we’re looking forward to getting back and doing.”
For now, he will welcome a short break and then refocus on a season-long goal. Pitt County will host the state tournament at Pitt Community College later in July.
Pitt County’s Darius Nobles delivers a three-run double in the first inning.
“We’re more focused on the process than the goal,” Meadows said. “We knew we had a lot of good players. Talent’s one thing on paper, but how well they come together as a team, and from the day that we started on May 24 against Rocky Mount where we were really 18 to 20 individuals, seeing the process these guys have gone through day in and day out and how this team has jelled and formed to the product we put on the field this past week and the camaraderie and brotherhood that’s formed in our dugout in representing Pitt County is really special.
“It’s special for us, it’s special for our legionnaires, it’s special for our county, and we look forward to representing them hopefully pretty deep in the summer.”