Legion ball is heating up going down the stretch in Sussex County, and Post 28 and their legion of hot bats are the cause of it. The Warriors won three more games in two days, to improve their record to 19-8 and win their last five outings.
East Sussex annihilated Newark in a Saturday double-dip, defeating them in consecutive games, 15-2 and 12-6.
Centerfielder Justin Collins whacked two home runs (his fourth and fifth home runs of the year — he now leads the team) in the first game of the doubleheader while first baseman Kevin VanVorst added another homer.
When the Warriors players weren’t planting baseballs on the moon, they were getting extra base hits and driving them in.
Third baseman Jay Marsh belted two three-baggers (one in each game of the Newark doubleheader) and designated hitter Jake Lee posted one as well. Catcher D.J. Clark, Colin Warner and Collins each hit for doubles to put Post 28 in scoring position or to drive them in.
“Right now, we’re putting runs on the board. We’ve put up 35 runs in three games and we’re not leaving men on base — we’re driving them in now,” said Head Coach Mearl Layton.
Zac Spece (4-0-1) earned his fourth win of the season in the first game against Newark while Collins (1-0-1) earned his first win of the season in the second game.
After cruising to back-to-back victories at St. Marks High on July 23, Post 28 headed back home to host Wilmington’s Delvets for a winner-take-all game at Indian River High School.
The Warriors wouldn’t get the same run production against Delvets that they did against Newark. They would have to battle their way out of a two-run deficit to achieve the 8-7 win.
Colin Warner toed the rubber for the Warriors and got off to a rusty start after not finding the lower part of the strike zone. He allowed the first two Delvets batters to get on base (full-count single and walk), which set up a first-pitch RBI single.
Warner recoiled and got the next two outs by getting ahead in the count to get a 6-5 force-out and a fly pop to left field. Warner’s next pitch found its way into left field among the mounds of cut grass to score another Delvets run and give them a 2-0 first-inning advantage.
Warner would strike out the final batter with three men on base.
East Sussex would make a bit a noise themselves in the bottom of the first inning, after Collins reached base on a leadoff single to left field and Jensen punched a single through the infield for a single on a hit-and-run attempt.
Despite a good jump, Collins held at second and waited for someone to get a base hit. He wouldn’t wait long, and following a VanVorst pop out, Clark delivered on a first-pitch swing to knock in Collins on a RBI single and cut Delvets’ lead to 2-1.
Warner would get out of a jam in the second. After getting one out and walking one, he forced Zack Roeuen to hit into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Post 28 would tally three double plays on the day.
Second-baseman James Davis would start the remaining two 4-6-3 double plays.
“Josh and James are getting smoother and are getting used to playing with each other,” said Layton.
“Josh has a lot of range,” he continued. “He’s one of the better junior shortstops in the league. He’s probably better than anyone in the league.”
The Warriors and Delvets would remain in a war of attrition until Post 28 was finally able to budge the score in their favor. Dean started the rally with a walk and then stole second base on a 2-0 count to Marsh.
Marsh smacked the next pitch into left field to give the Warriors a golden opportunity with no outs, to tie up the game and possibly take the lead.
After falling behind in the count, 0-2, Lee maintained a focused eye to work a full count and drove the ball deep to centerfield, scoring Dean on the sacrifice fly.
Davis would take advantage of one of the many bad hops the ball would take in the game and would earn his first on-base pass on a single that bounced over the glove of the shortstop. Marsh motored to third and was called safe to give Post 28 runners on the corners with one out.
Right-fielder Trevor Abbott scored Marsh on a RBI-single and another hit-and-run call by Layton would advance Davis — this time to third. Small ball proved to be vital because the very next pitch to Collins skipped past the catcher, scoring Davis and giving Post 28 a 4-2 lead.
Following a Collins swinging strikeout, southpaw leftfielder Cody Jensen blistered the first pitch tossed his way for a two-run homerun that just cleared the right-field foul pole, giving Post 28 their biggest lead at 6-2.
VanVorst and Clark would keep the rally alive by drawing a walk (on four straight balls) and a first-pitch single, but the fifth inning would start after Dean got under one to end the inning on a pop up to the shortstop.
The Warriors posted five runs in the bottom of the fourth and left two on base.
Delvets showed that they could score, too, and posted three more runs to cut the Warriors’ lead to one at 6-5.
Warner gave up three consecutive hits (two singles and a double) to Delvets’ two. It was three and cleanup hitter before they scored on a fielder’s-choice and a sac fly to clear the bases. Warner would give up another walk but would again strike out the final batter — this time, looking.
Post 28 gained two more runs on a VanVorst two-run homerun (his fourth home run of the season — second most on the team) that would score a waiting Jensen. With a livable 8-5 lead, Layton sat Warner in favor of their closer, Zach Spudis.
Spudis (0-2-6) has proven his worth in closing out games and, usually, he’s three up-three down, but every appearance is different.
He would give up a leadoff walk on a 3-1 count after falling behind on three straight balls and then give up a first-pitch single.
“He had to come up in the middle of the strike zone,” said Layton.
Pitch location, as well as pitch selection, was Spudis’s formula for getting the remaining three outs.
“It kinda [stunk] giving up two straight hits, but I took a deep breath to get my focus and went out there and did what the coach wanted from me,” said Spudis.
Spudis would recover to force a pop-out to first and struck out the next batter with a high-heat fastball. On a roll and only one batter in his way from achieving the win, Spudis gave up another single to load the bases.
The next batter would deliver a two-run single to whittle the Warriors’ lead to 8-7. Delvets had runners on first and second and could tie the game with a ground ball to the outfield or a gap shot to the outfield. But that simply wouldn’t happen. Spudis struck out the final batter on a 2-2 count to preserve the win and earn his sixth save.
“His job is to come in and get the save. That’s his role and he’s been pretty efficient at it, too,” said Layton.
Warner (3-4) would earn the win but gave up five runs on seven hits and four walks while striking out four.
The Warriors was set to finish up their regular season with home games — against Post 91 on July 27 and an ever-important game against Stahl on July 30.