HICKORY – Hickory’s American Legion Post 48 had all the right answers Thursday at Henkel-Alley Field when it came up with a much-needed division win over Burnsville. Hickory won 9-5, in large part, because every time the visitors from Burnsville scored, Hickory answered with more runs in its next at-bat.
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“(We had) two big innings and that’s something we look to do, have those big innings of three runs or more and we had two of them tonight,” said Hickory coach Allen Sigmon. “We did a good job of when they scored, we answered. Really, we’ve done that all year long, that’s nothing new.”
Hickory is now 4-6 on the year, 2-3 in division games. Burnsville drops to 1-8.
Both starting pitchers, Will Stewart of Hickory and Zeus Ponder of Burnsville, struggled with control right from the onset. Burnsville picked up a pair of runs in the top of the first on a pair of walks and two singles. But Post 48, as it would all night, came right back with a case of one-upsmanship.
Lead-off hitter Bryce Stober hit a towering double into the left field corner to get things started in the Hickory half of the first. Kade Smith drew a walk and so did Brody Scarborough to load the bases. An error by the Burnsville second baseman led to two Hickory runs and Gavin Marley drove in two more with a single to left.
Burnsville came back and tied the score at 4 in the third inning, only to have Hickory rally for three more in the bottom of the same frame. Scarborough smacked a one-out double into the gap in left, and Andy Cook beat out an infield single. Connor Stewart and Kevin Shuford hit back-to-back two-out singles, the second of which brought in two runs when the left fielder misplayed the ball sending Shuford all the way to third to give Hickory a 7-4 lead.
Davis Hall came on in relief of Stewart in the fourth inning and allowed just one hit and one unearned run in three innings of work. That run came in the fifth inning.
But once again, Hickory danced to the tune of “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” in its very next turn at the plate.
Cook led off the Hickory fifth with his second hit of the night, a single into right center. Gavin Marley’s second hit was a two-bagger into left center that allowed Cook to touch home plate for the third time in the game. Marley then scored on Shuford’s second hit to left field.
“Our six, seven, eight hitters tonight did a good job. That’s the mentality we have to have,” Sigmon said.
Beginning with Cook in the fifth slot, Marley, Connor Stewart and Shuford combined for eight of Hickory’s 10 hits, including a double, six RBIs and five runs scored.
“Everybody is going to get their playing time. When you get your turn, you’ve got to produce,” Sigmon said. “That next-man-up mentality is what we’ve got to bank on. There are some blue-collar guys there and we’re going to see good things out of them.”
Dakota London came on in relief of Hall and pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to complete the victory for Post 48.
“They did a great job,” Sigmon said of relievers Hall and London. “They’ve done a great job all year long. They’ve always come in and been solid for us. They know that’s their role and they like that role. They thrive under pressure. I’m just glad they’re on our team.”
Hickory’s next game will be against Asheville on June 19 at Henkel-Alley Field with the first pitch set for 7 p.m.