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The first error in the last four games triggered the downhill trend the last three innings for the Wilson American Legion baseball team that dropped a 10-3 decision to Area One East Division-leading Kinston on Wednesday night at Fleming Stadium.
The error to start the top of the fifth inning was followed in the inning by a passed ball and a decision to issue an intentional walk that went awry as Post 43 capitalized with three unearned runs to erase a 3-1 deficit.
Kinston turned the outcome into a romp against Post 13 right-handed relievers Peyton Bass and Mason Lee in the last two innings. Lee was summoned from left field to see his first mound duty since he was 9 years old.
The disastrous finish negated a stout performance from Wilson starting pitcher Austin Slate, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from Beddingfield High who drew his first start and pitched for only the second time this season.
Kinston head coach Ty Eason insisted his team was lucky but, nonetheless, Kinston climbed to 8-1 atop the division standings and to 12-2 overall. The second loss of the week left Wilson, in its regular-season home finale, at 4-6 in the league and 6-7 in all games.
Post 13 continues division play at third-place Pitt County at 7 p.m. Friday and wraps up the regular season at Ahoskie, also a division foe, next Tuesday.
Trailing 1-0, Wilson nicked Kinston starting right-hander Peyton Howard for three runs in the third.
Post 13 loaded the bases on Lee’s single, a walk to shortstop Dom Gaetano and a misplayed fielder’s choice. First baseman Tanner Sullivan laced a two-run single and Slate plated the third run with a fielder’s choice.
Slate was hampered by a hit batsman and a walk against the first two batters. Second baseman Malik Dixon stroked an RBI double before Slate worked out of further trouble.
Slate, who suffered the loss, stopped Post 43 on one hit the next three innings.
But, in the fifth, the error, a walk and an intentional walk to designated hitter Trey McLawhorn loaded the bases. However, Kinston cut the deficit to 3-2 when Dixon drew a walk and, next, third baseman Jon Howard sent Kinston ahead for keeps (4-3) with a two-run single.
The intentional walk that filled the bases set up a force play at any base. However, Wilson head coach Noah Edens cited a different reason for not wanting to pitch to McLawhorn.
“He hit two home runs and a double in the first game against us,” Edens explained. “They scored 10 runs and he was responsible for eight of them. He’s their biggest threat.”
Added Slate: “I understand where the coaches were coming from. You can get an out at any base, and that’s a lot easier that if there had been runners at second and third. It was the right move.
“(McLawhorn) is a really good hitter and who knows what he would have done with a good pitch. I had been off and on that inning and you can’t really predict that. That’s just the game of baseball.”
Wilson committed two more errors the last two innings and walks totaled six. Catcher Brendon Grant smashed a two-run double in the seventh. Post 43 scored three runs without a hit in the sixth.
Left-handed reliever escaped fifth-inning trouble with the aid of a double play and worked three scoreless innings in notching the save.
Wilson wound up with an 8-5 margin in hits and Kinston survived poor base running.
“If we’ve got kryptonite, it’s base running,” declared Eason. “And we didn’t hit the baseball extremely well. We were lucky tonight. When you score 10 runs on five hits, that’s what it is. That (Wilson) is a really good squad; I have a lot of respect for them.”
Eason reasoned Slate was effective because of his leverage, mixing the curve ball and making it difficult for Post 43 hitters to pick up the ball out of his hand.
“(Slate) pitched a good enough game to win, and that stinks for him,” Eason expressed.
Added Edens: “I thought he threw the ball really good, especially for no more than he’s thrown this season.”
Slate was encouraged.
“It sucks that we didn’t get the win,” he said, “but it felt really good to come out and pitch a quality game. It’s been a while. Coming into the game, I was nervous because the only other time I pitched was against them and I didn’t do very well at Beddingfield this season. I fell off in the fifth and sixth innings.”
The same fate consumed the rest of the team.
Score by innings:
Kinston 100 033 3 — 10
Wilson 003 000 0 — 3
WP-Peyton Howard 4 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 SO. LP-Austin Slate (0-1) 5 IP, 3 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 5 BB, 3 SO. S-Luke Thigpen 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 2 SO.
LEADING HITTERS — Kinston: Brendon Grant 3-1, 2B, 2 RBI, 2 R; Malik Dixon 1-3, 2B, 2 RBI; Jayden Gatling 1-2, 2 RBI. Wilson: Tanner Sullivan 2-4, 2 RBI; Ty Narron 2-3, Mason Lee 1-3, R.