AUBURN — After going the first three innings without a hit, Rogers Post changed its fortunes in the fourth inning.
A no-hitter for Jackson Silver Post of Locke Mills pitcher Caleb Clarke came to a screeching halt, as did the Locke Mills club’s undefeated start in a 6-3 loss to Rogers Post of Auburn in a Zone 2 American Legion baseball game at Austin Field on Tuesday night.
Both teams entered the game 2-0. Two pitches into the game, Locke Mills had two hits and a 1-0 lead.
Hunter Day hit the first pitch of the game inside the third-base line for a double, then Mason Henley blooped a single behind the first-base bag on the next pitch from Rogers Post (3-0) starter Ethan Brown to score Day. Consecutive groundouts to third base moved Henley from second to score to give Locke Mills a quick 2-0 lead.
It took longer for the Rogers Post bats to get going. Clarke walked four batters in the first three innings, twice on 3-2 pitches, but that was all Rogers Post could muster for base runners early on.
“He’s a very good pitcher,” Rogers Post manager Dave Jordan said. “He’s a veteran guy, and I think our guys were really kind of taking a lot of info on him as they were coming back in the dugout. Talking about him, what he was throwing, different counts and stuff like that, moving all his pitches.”
Before Rogers Post stepped to the plate in the fourth, Locke Mills (2-1) added to its lead. Brown got two quick outs, but Nick L’Heureux hit a two-out single down the third-base line, moved to second on a balk, and scored Blake Letourneau’s single to right.
The Rogers Post rally started with Ian Brushwein getting hit by a Clarke pitch to lead off. Tyler Blanchard then snuck a grounder between third and short for the first hit against Clarke. Brushwein moved to third on the play, then scored on a delayed double steal.
The hits kept coming for the hosts. Tyler Libby notched an infield single that Locke Mills third baseman L’Heureux couldn’t get a diving glove on, and Damien St. Pierre dropped a bunt down the third-base line for a single. Maxx Bell sent a double down the first-base line to score two and tie the game 3-3.
Austin Brown drove in the game-winning run with a sacrifice fly to right. It was Clarke’s first out of the inning, and last of his outing.
“I think they were getting comfortable just hitting, just putting the ball in play,” Locke Mills manager Skip Bennett said. “Any time someone comes around a second, third time starts seeing a pitcher, they’re going to tag that and put it in play.”
Day took over on the mound, but that didn’t put a stop to Rogers Post’s momentum. Austin Cox laid down a bunt that scored Bell on a close play at the plate. Mason Brushwein reached on an error, Grant Hartley walked, and Ian Brushwein singled in the host’s final run in his second at-bat of the frame.
“I thought it was a game of spurts and runs, and we had a bigger one in that fourth inning,” Jordan said. “I thought our guys did a good job of putting the ball in play, we had some timely hits, I thought we ran the bases pretty well that inning, executed a few plays, and we were able to get some runs in. And the inning kept getting extended, which was good. I think we gained confidence as that inning kept getting extended.”
Austin Brown took over for his brother on the mound in the top of the fifth. He was able to scatter two batters in that frame (error, walk) and one more in the sixth (Day single) before firing a 1-2-3 top of the seventh — Locke Mills’ first inning without a base runner.
“Our bats went flat. They did,” Bennett said. “We started beating on ourselves, made a couple errors on our end. Still a young group of guys playing together, still figuring that out. It’s only the third game.”
Day settled in on the mound in his own right after closing out the fourth. He retired the final eight Rogers Post batters, to go along with three hits at the plate.
“Very nice to see him step up,” Bennett said. “It’s been many months since he’s pitched. He didn’t play ball this spring, so it was good to see him step in there and do what he could do.”
Bennett called the loss — Locke Mills’ first after victories over Franklin County and Pastime — a “very good learning experience.”
For Rogers Post, it was a continuation of an undefeated start that could have lasting effects.
“Early in the season, at the end, they count up the wins and losses, they’re all equal,” Jordan said. “They’re all the same, whether it’s the beginning of the season or the end of the season. So I thought it was a good early-season win.”