Junior Team rallies again

Published 2:43 pm Monday, May 30, 2011

AHOSKIE – Hot start!

Much like the unseasonably hot weather in the Roanoke-Chowan area, Ahoskie Post-102’s American Legion junior baseball team has opened the season with a two straight wins.

The deuce came Friday night as they came-from-behind to edge the Rocky Mount junior team, 7-6. Earlier, they opened the season with a 6-4 comeback win over Elizabeth City on Tuesday.

Jesse White surrendered seven hits in his first two innings of work and then pitched shutout baseball the rest of the way, with eight strikeouts en route to the win on the mound.

White got relief help in the seventh inning from Austin Lee and Darren Armstrong picked up the save – his first of the season.

White also wasn’t too shabby at the plate either, going 3-for-4 while driving in a pair and scoring one run.

Jim Porter was the big stick for the juniors, going 3-for-4 and driving in a pair of runs with a huge homerun in Ahoskie’s three-run fourth inning.

Darren Armstrong also drove in two runs while Bobby Merritt scored twice.

“They (Rocky Mount) really got their runs off little errors we made,” said Ahoskie Coach Wayne Hill. “Looking back, if you take the errors out, they probably wouldn’t have scored more than a couple of runs the whole game.

“I’ve got 24 boys on the team this year,” he added with a smile, “and something like 11 pitchers, so we’ve got a chance to be really strong. I hope in these next few games to let some of the younger boys play because all my kids aren’t here yet.”

While what Hill has on the field is potent, they still show plenty of signs of their youth. In both their losses, the team has surrendered runs to their opponents early and had to play from behind.

Friday was no exception as Rocky Mount got on the scoreboard first with a run in the first inning thanks to an Ahoskie error.

Then it looked like the visitors might chase White in the second inning as they sent eight men to the plate and tacked on four more runs, including their only homerun of the night for a 5-0 lead for the boys from Nash County.

But they wouldn’t get another hit the rest of the night.

Ahoskie finally woke up its offense in the fourth inning when Armstrong drew a one-out walk and the next batter, Porter, sent one 305 feet over the right field fence to make it , 5-2.

After another out, Post 102 went back to work: Merritt singled through the infield followed by Eric Ortiz drawing a base-on-balls to put two aboard.

White followed with a double all the way to the fence in right center, scoring Merritt; but Ortiz was held up on the play which could’ve gotten Ahoskie within one. Rocky Mount then made a pitching change and Ahoskie’s threat ended with the bases loaded.

It was still 5-3 after a scoreless fifth when Ahoskie seized command in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The first batter, Merritt, was hit by a pitch and then Ortiz sacrificed him to second base.  White followed with his second RBI of the night, a gaper between first and second, to get Ahoskie within one at 5-4.

Robert Thompson was next with a base-on-balls to put two aboard; and Ryan Lilley then doubled down the left field line just beyond third base allowing White to score the tying run.

After a strikeout, Armstrong drilled another gaper – this one a single between third and short.  Thompson and Lilley scored to give Ahoskie its first lead of the night, a two-run cushion to make it, 7-5.

Post 102 might’ve gotten more, but the inning ended with the bases loaded.

White gave way to Lee in the top of the seventh.

Despite surrendering a pair of walks to the first two batters, Ahoskie was able to eliminate one threat on the basepaths when the lead runner was caught stealing in a rundown.

After a flyout made it two-away it looked like the wheels might come off the Ahoskie comeback.  Three straight walks produced a run to make it 7-6 before Armstrong came on to run the count full before getting a strikeout to end the game.

“We had a lot of talent in Ahoskie this year,” said Hill. “I just hope the younger boys will stick with us and watch some of these older ones because if they pay attention, they’ll learn something.”

Ahoskie (2-0) hosted Raleigh at Hertford County High School field Saturday. They’ll then take to the road for three games before returning home for a double-header June 7 against Nash Central.