The East Sussex Warriors rounded third so many times against RC Dupont on July 16 that apparently it sparked the Post 28 team to turn the corner going into the playoffs.
After falling to first-place Steevers 11-5 on July 14, Post 28 rebounded to win their next two games against RC Dupont and Post 2 Dover.
The Warriors lambasted RC Dupont 17-2 to extend their season series lead to 2-1. Post 28 got off to a fast start following a three-up/three-down inning by starting pitcher Trevor Abbott, who struck out two of his three batters in the first inning.
Wham-a-lam — Post 28 batted around the lineup twice in the bottom of the first inning to give themselves 13 runs and a comfortable lead.
Following two straight singles by outfielders Justin Collins and Cody Jensen and a strikeout by first-baseman Kevin VanVorst, Head Coach Mearl Layton sent the runners in a textbook situation to avoid the double play as catcher D.J. Clark came to the plate.
Layton’s wisdom would pay off as Clark drove the first pitch he saw for a two-RBI double, giving Post 28 a 2-0 lead. Clark would finish the day 3-3 with three doubles and a walk.
Shortstop Josh Dean then plowed another double to score pinch runner Zac Spece, followed by a full-count walk by third-baseman Jay Marsh.
Colin Warner battled hard through a 0-2 count to belt a RBI single to score Dean. Seldom-used pitcher and utility infielder Jake Lee launched a first-pitch three-run homerun to score Marsh and Warner and put Post 28 ahead 7-0.
The Warriors then loaded the bases on two consecutive hits by second-baseman James Davis and by Collins (single and double) and a walk by Jensen. VanVorst would avenge his earlier strikeout by delivering two base runners home after blasting a ground ball through the third-baseman’s wickets.
After consistently nailing RC Dupont’s first pitches, East Sussex laid back and made them pitch.
Post 28 drew three straight walks — two of which scored runners. Warner cracked in Dean and Clark on a two-RBI double (he went 3-4 with two singles, one double and four RBI’s) to give his team a 13-0 lead before Lee and Davis would surrender the final two outs.
Just when the game seemed well out of reach, RC Dupont mounted their best counterattack and got on base with back-to-back singles. After advancing on a past pitch, Dover scored their first run on a sac fly to right field. Abbott let another wild pitch get loose and the runners again advanced.
Abbott then walked the next batter to load the bases and, with two outs remaining, more runs were quite possible. He struck out the next batter looking and popped the following batter out to left field, stranding three base runners and leaving the Warriors with a 12-run lead.
Post 28 kicked the dog when it was down and poured on three more runs in the bottom of the second with a RBI double by Clark, sac fly by Dean and RBI single by Warner.
Jensen and VanVorst added their final two runs in the bottom of the third on a double and sac fly respectively.
Spece came in to work the final two innings of regulation, barring an unforeseen offensive explosion by RC Dupont. After giving up a solo homerun to deep centerfield, and runners on the corners, Spece would get out of the inning on a 6-4-3 double play.
Abbott earned his fourth win, to improve his record to 4-1, with Spece earning his second save and improving his record to 3-0-2.
The Warriors carried their momentum into their July 19 matchup with Post 2 Dover. East Sussex had eked out a 1-0 victory against Dover on July 12 and was plagued by a series of first-pitch outs.
Against RC Dupont, Post 28 tattooed first pitches for hits, as opposed to missing out as had happened against Dover, but there is an easy explanation to the turnaround, according to Collins.
“The pitching was better in the Dover game,” said Collins, referring to the difference between the offensive productions in both games.
“When we can jump out to an early lead it give us confidence and, hopefully, this game (RC Dupont) will jumpstart our offense for the state tournament,” said Collins.
Warner earned his second win while working four innings and striking out three to improve his record to 2-4 for the regular season. All three of Warner’s strikeouts were inning-enders — one of which was called and the other with a full count.
Patience was the key against Dover that time around, and they were able to draw nine walks — seven of which were in the first two innings.
“We’re getting better at-bats,” said Head Coach Mearl Layton. “If we’re going to catch Stahl in the standings, we’re going to need to keep getting good quality at-bats.”
In the first two innings, Dean walked twice (once on a 4-0 count and the other on full count). Clark walked on a full count in the second inning and Jensen walked on four straight balls.
Their patience in the batters box led to Dover’s impatience on the mound. VanVorst scored the first run on a wild pitch to Marsh. Dover would walk in three straight batters in the bottom of the second inning and was finally capped off by a two-RBI double by Marsh.
“Jay really came through for us and got a big hit for us,” said Marsh.
Marsh’s hit gave Post 28 a 5-0 lead but they would go on to hit into three-up/three-down for the next two innings as Post 2 drew closer.
Dover’s third-baseman, Matt Carey, launched a two-run homerun to cut the lead to 5-2.
Davis would come in for Warner to pitch the fifth and sixth innings, and after working a masterful top of the fifth (he struck out the final two batters swinging) he was unable to throw his pitches for strikes.
“James is a low strike pitcher and the ump wasn’t calling them for strikes,” explained Layton. “It’s was frustrating for James, but we put in Collins and let him just throw it past them.”
Collins worked the seventh inning in his second appearance after completing physical therapy for a damaged postier deltoid. After two months of not pitching, Collins could be expected to be rusty or lose considerable velocity, but that wasn’t the case.
“Justin was throwing in the mid-80’s and was pitching just as hard as he was in school ball before his injury,” said Layton.
Collins smoked Dover like a cheap cigar in the sixth inning after relieving Davis with only one out in the inning. He blazed Dover for what would be the final two outs of the game on strikeouts — one looking and the other swinging.
Dean led the team with three walks in each of his at-bats, with Clark and VanVorst nipping at his heels at two walks apiece.
Marsh finished the day 1-2 with a walk and a two-RBI double. Warner went 1-1 for a RBI single. Warner mustered five RBI’s in two games.
East Sussex (16-8 conference and 16-10 overall) will travel to Newark on July 23 for a doubleheader starting at noon and come home to take on Delvets on July 24 in a 1 p.m. start for two of their final four games.
With only a few games left and trailing Stahl by two points in the rankings, Post 28 will need more solid play to stay competitive.
“If we can keep our pitching healthy and our offense keeps producing, then we’ll compete,” said Collins.
“We’re going to have to have a nice little run to catch Stahl and take the second seed,” said Layton.