Leesburg Post 182 starting pitcher Caleb Flores, a native of Frostproof, Fla., got the win Friday against Vidalia Academy in the Paul Eames Memorial Tournament after throwing three innings and allowing just three hits and no earned runs. (Staff Photo: John Millikan)
ALBANY — An opening-game loss to Jacksonville Post 88 Friday afternoon in the Paul Eames Memorial Tournament put the American Legion Leesburg Post 182 Senior team in an early hole.
They had little trouble digging themselves out.
Post 182 bounced back with a dominating 13-2 victory against Vidalia Academy later in the day to stay alive in the three-day tournament. Likely needing a 3-1 record to advance out of pool play, Post 182 had its back against the wall with a 7-2 loss in Game 1 at Paul Eames Sports Complex.
“It was good to bounce back and get this win (Friday) so we can come out with confidence (today),” said Post 182 catcher Zack Jones, a former Baconton Charter star and Albany State signee. “We knew the reason we lost (against Jacksonville) was because of a lot of errors and fielding mistakes. We knew that if we fixed that little stuff that we could come out and dominate.”
And that’s exactly what they did.
They belted 15 hits in what Post 182 coach Tom Pinson called his team’s best offensive game of the season, and pitchers Caleb Flores and Hunter Goodwin allowed just three hits and no earned runs.
“We definitely improved from that first game,” said Leesburg center fielder Malik Spratling, a rising sophomore at Lee County who was 2-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs against Vidalia. “We were struggling in the field but came back and had a better second game.”
The victory sets up an enticing matchup at 10 a.m. today between host Albany Post 30 Senior and Post 182 Senior. A loss would likely knock Post 182 out of contention for a spot in Sunday’s semifinals, but a win for Post 30 would guarantee that the host team advances.
The rivalry game will pit high school teammates from several Southwest Georgia schools against each other — something Jones is looking forward to.
“Once you get on the field and start playing against guys who you have played on the same team with, they become your rivals,” Jones said. “It makes you want to beat them that much more. With all the tension between the teams, it makes it more fun. It will be a great game to watch.”
Post 182 never trailed against Valdosta thanks to a first-inning RBI single from Lee County’s Josh Hatcher, which scored Trojan teammate Tyler Simon. Post 182 added four runs in the second inning, one in the third and two in the fourth before slamming the door shut on Vidalia with a five-run fifth inning.
“It was refreshing to have a good win and swing the bat well,” Pinson said. “Pretty much everybody on the team swung the bat well. We had not hit the ball well so far this year, but we swung it well (Friday).”
Jones and Spratling led Post 182 at the plate, combining for six RBIs and four extra-base hits. Jones drove in one with a fourth-inning triple and then plated two in the fifth inning with a double.
Hatcher, Flores, Goodwin and Sherwood Christian Academy’s Demetrius Reed also drove in runs, while Simon was 3-for-3 with two runs.
As powerful as Post 182 was at the plate, their pitching was equally dominant. Flores, a native of Frostproof, Fla., surrendered just three hits and struck out six in three innings to get the win. Worth County’s Goodwin threw the final two innings and didn’t allow a hit.
In Friday’s first game against Jacksonville, Hatcher was the losing pitcher and Simon led Post 182 at the plate with two hits.
The Post 182 Junior team went 0-2 on Friday, losing to Albany Post 30 Junior, 15-0, and then falling to Tallahassee Post 13, 16-2.