It was a fun ride while it lasted, but McDowell’s Post 56 Junior American Legion squad hit the end of the line Wednesday night.
McDowell fell 3-1 to Mint Hill in a deciding Game 3 of their best-of-three, second-round state playoff series. Post 56, which won its first 13 games, finished with a superb 20-4 record.
But the bats fell silent for McDowell – a team that had clubbed the ball all year – in the finale. Post 56 managed just four hits against Mint Hill pitcher Conner Randall. Randall gave up a run on four hits, striking out seven and walking two in seven innings of work.
Randall’s performance overshadowed an outstanding effort from Post 56 hurler Ethan Davis, who gave up three runs on five hits over six innings. Davis fanned five batters and didn’t walk anyone, although he did hit three batters.
But in the end, it was a two-run first inning that gave Mint Hill the edge in a cleanly played game with no errors by either side.
Travis Ziefort (1-3) led off the bottom of the first with a base hit to center, and scored on a double to right by Alvin Duran (1-1, RBI, double, SB). Andy Duran (1-3) followed with a single that moved the other Duran to third.
Mint Hill’s Brandon Moser then grounded into a double play, but Alvin Duran scored to make it 2-0. Ethan Davis struck out Hayden Davis (1-2) to end the inning, but the damage was done.
Post 56 didn’t wait long to answer, however. Ethan Davis (1-3, double) smacked a one-out double to center in the top of the second. Davis was erased at third on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Ethan Hamm, but Hamm scored on a two-out, RBI double to center by Ben Barnes (2-3, double, RBI) to make it 2-1.
The Sixers didn’t score again.
Mint Hill added some insurance in the bottom of the fourth. Hayden Davis (1-2) led off with a single and took second on a wild pitch. He went to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scored on a ground out by Brian Baer to stretch the lead to 3-1.
That was all Randall needed. McDowell’s only hits the rest of the way were a single by Cyrus Black (1-1, 2BB) in the fifth and a two-out base hit by Barnes in the seventh.
Despite the loss, Post 56 racked up some amazing numbers on the season. McDowell outscored its opponents 218-64. The 56ers hit .355 as a club while posting a team ERA of 1.84.
Justin Dula finished the year 10-0 on the mound with a .99 earned run average and 59 strikeouts in 49 2/3 innings. Ethan Davis finished 4-1 with a 1.56 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 40 1/3 innings. Chapel Matson was 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 34 punch-outs in 27 innings of work.
Individually, all nine Post 56 players with 40 or more at bats finished the year hitting .300 or better, including Matson (.444 BA, 32H, 6 doubles, 2 triples, 31R, 16RBI, 21SB); Dula (.441 BA, .735 SLG, 30H, 4 doubles, 2 triples, 4HR, 25RBIs, 28R, 8SB); Ethan Davis (.439 BA, .610 OBP, .789 SLG, 25H, 10 doubles, 2 triples, 2HR, 20RBIs, 26R, 4SB); Barnes (.370 BA, 20H, 8 doubles, triple, 12RBIs, 16R, 7SB); Dusty Revis (.344 BA, 22H, triple, 16RBIs, 14R, 5SB); Black (.341 BA, 14H, double, 10RBIs, 9R, 3SB); Three Young (.333 BA, 26H, 7 doubles, triple, 20RBIs, 24R, 14SB); Justin Davis (.329 BA, 24H, 2 doubles, triple, 13RBIs, 25R, 7SB); and Hamm (.306 BA, 22H, 6 doubles, 2 triples, HR, 21RBIs, 25R, 5SB).