Kinston Post 43 clinches top spot in Area 1 Eastern bracket
Kinston Post 43’s Ethan May hit two home runs in the second game of a doubleheader against Edenton Post 40 Saturday at the Ronnie Battle Baseball Complex at Kinston High School. Photo by William ‘Bud’ Hardy / Neuse News
Kinston Post 43 did something Saturday the team hasn’t accomplished in a long time.
After defeating Edenton Post 40 13-1 and 13-3 in a home doubleheader, Kinston Post 43 clinched the Area 1 Eastern Conference after improving its record to 13-2. The team travels to Farmville Central to face Farmville Post 151 Monday, then gets eight days off before hosting a playoff game July 9.
“It’s been 20-something years since we’ve been able to finish first in our conference, so this is a tremendous accomplishment,” Kinston Post 43 coach Ty Eason said. “We take it game by game, and we’ve got a lot of guys who put in great work. My hat’s off to them — they play hard every game.”
In the first game, Edenton Post 40 scored a run in the top of the first, but Kinston Post 43 exploded for seven in the bottom of the frame. Jon Howard and Jayden Gatling had 2-run singles, Cameron Butler and Brendon Grant added RBI hits and an error brought in another run.
Christian Jones had an RBI single in the second, then Kinston Post 43 put four more on the board an inning later. After Jalin Connor's leadoff triple, Malik Dixon followed with an RBI double before run-scoring hits from Butler and Trey McLawhorn. Gatling would draw a bases-loaded walk to make the score 12-1, and Howard added another RBI single in the fourth to close the scoring. The game ended in the fifth due to the 10-run mercy rule.
In the second game, Edenton Post 40 took a 3-0 lead in the top of the third, but Kinston Post 43 answered in the bottom of the frame. After an error on Jon Howard’s fly ball with two outs and one on extended the inning, Ethan May hit a 3-run blast over the left field wall to tie the game.
“I didn’t think it was going out, but I just sat back, got my pitch and drove it,” May said.
One inning later, a passed ball brought home one run to put Kinston Post 43 ahead and with the bases loaded, Trey McLawhorn hit a grand slam with the ball’s trajectory rivaling May’s.
“I just saw a curveball, sat back and just tried to hit it hard,” McLawhorn said.
Not to be outdone, May hit his second home run in as many innings — this one a 2-run shot — to put Kinston Post 43 ahead 10-3.
“After (Trey) hit his bomb, he came up to me and said ‘I just had to one-up you,’” May said. “It was kind of in the back of my mind—I didn’t go up there trying to hit one, but it was pretty fun.”
Kinston Post 43 also ended the second game in the fifth, as Dixon had a 2-run double and Butler added a walkoff RBI single.
Eason said it felt good to get the division crown, especially with the postseason on the horizon.
“When you start looking toward the playoffs, it’s important to get that first-round bye,” Eason said. “We can get some guys rested and it always helps to have a break to see what other teams are doing.”