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Only nine are needed.
And with one player above that number available, the host Wilson Post 13 American Legion baseball team pulled off an Area I East Division stunner at Fleming Stadium before a sprinkling of onlookers Wednesday evening with a 3-0 conquest of Pitt County Post 39, seeking a four-peat as the Area I East Division champion.
Post 13 right-hander Dom Gaetano blanked Pitt on three singles and his offense blended all five of its hits into a three-run spree in the bottom of the third inning.
The fourth win in the last five outings lifted Wilson to 2-4 in the division and to 4-5 overall. Wilson next sees action at Fleming Stadium at 1 p.m. Saturday for a doubleheader against division rival Edenton.
Post 39, which entered tied for second place behind front-running Kinston, dropped to 6-3 against division foes.
“You can only play nine,” reasoned Wilson head coach Noah Edens of a roster that has dwindled to 13 players. “We put the ball in play, made great plays defensively and got a good pitching performance. Dom threw the ball very well and I am proud of him. He’s probably going to pitch more.”
Post 13 was coming off a pair of wins last weekend in the Pitt County Post 39 Showcase and, said Edens, “we came back tonight just like we did last weekend.”
Gaetano (1-1) escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and needed 103 pitches to last the seven innings. He managed just one strikeout while walking five. Four Pitt County base runners were left stranded at third base. Gaetano was only two pitches away from throwing the maximum allowed.
“He was going to either win the game, lose the game or run out of pitches,” Edens noted.
Left fielder Trey Dail asserted his presence with a sensational diving catch in the third inning and launched the three-run uprising with a lead-off single in the bottom of the third.
Then came a single from shortstop Josh Fuller, a run-scoring fielder’s choice, a throwing error, a single from right fielder Jamar Ellis, a double off the bat of catcher Austin Slate and an RBI single from center fielder Payton Bass.
“Second time through the order, we saw the ball a little better and took better approaches,” Edens said.
Post 39 threatened in the top of the seventh when left fielder Cam Jackson singled and shortstop Anthony Saieed drew a walk to put runners on first and third with one out. However, the weary Gaetano gutted it out — preserving the win and the shutout with a strikeout and a fly ball to Dail in left field.
“I was getting tired,” Gaetano admitted. “After 103 pitches, I’m not going to feel good tomorrow. But I feel great now.”
Getting out of the first-inning jam was huge.
“I realized I was not throwing my fast ball as well as I would like,” Gaetano explained. “I started to put more emphasis on the change-up and slider. I was just trying to throw some strikes and mix it up. Once I got out of the jam with the bases loaded, I felt comfortable with my other pitches.”
Of having just one reserve available, Gaetano responded: “Same old summer baseball issues. In my opinion, we should be about 8-1. But we are starting to play more as a team and less individually. Everybody is playing their best baseball.”
When approached for comment, Post 39 head coach Austin Meadows advised: “It’s going to be a while.”
Score by innings:
Pitt County 000 000 0 — 0
Wilson Post 13 003 000 x — 3
WP-Dom Gaetano (1-1) 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 1 SO. LP-Jordan Leggett 3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Pitt County: Anthony Saieed 1-1, Cam Jackson 1-3, Robbie O’Neal 1-3; Wilson Post 13: Jamar Ellis 1-2, RBI; Peyton Bass 1-3, RBI; Trey Dail 1-2, R; Austin Slate 1-3, 2B; Josh Fuller 1-3.