APEX — There would be no magic this time around for the Apex Post 124 American Legion baseball team.
Three days after staging a remarkable comeback against Garner, Apex fell short in the sequel, losing 11-4 to the visiting Nationals on Monday.
Garner posted a pair of five-run innings and used four pitchers to scatter eight hits in the win. Five Nationals enjoyed multi-hit games as Garner ran its record to 13-3 overall including 4-3 in the Area 1 West Conference.
“Everything was there to take advantage for the win,” Garner manager Chris Cook said. “We just wanted to piece things together.”
It was quite a different scene than Friday night when Garner led 8-1 only to watch Apex storm back and cap a wild 16-12 win.
On Monday, the Nationals put up five-run outbursts in the first and fourth innings and both times capitalized on a critical error. In the first, an Apex miscue plated a run and left two more runners aboard for Nick Stuart, who drilled a three-run homer over the fence in leftfield.
In the fourth, a two-out error plated two runs and set up an RBI single by Nick Yarbrough.
“We’ve had the tendency to get behind early and have a bad big inning and the same thing happened tonight,” Apex manager Tim Harrell said. “We just have to do a little bit better job in those innings where we gave up big runs.”
Garner started its big first inning with an RBI single off the bat of Lucas Scott. Scott would drive home another run with a sacrifice fly during the fourth-inning rally.
In the fourth, Garner scored four runs with two outs including run-scoring singles from Tripp Atkinson and Nick Yarbrough to go along with the two-run throwing error. The Nationals squeezed out a run in the eighth courtesy of a hit batsman and an infield single sandwiched between a pair of wild pitches.
Garner starting pitcher Kevin Cutler went five innings for the win in his first start of the season, surrendering five hits and two earned runs.
”I didn’t think he could give us five (innings) but he gave us five, which was a bonus,” Cook said.
Cutler was nearly flawless until giving up a pair of runs during a three-hit fifth-inning. Lane Johnson, Josh Greene and Atkinson teamed to take care of the remaining four frames with Apex never seriously threatening another miracle comeback. After Michael Sconzo drove home a pair of runs with a double in the fifth, Apex stranded the bases loaded with only one out.
After Philip Simpson cut the deficit to 10-4 with a two-run double in the seventh, Apex had a runner at second base with one out but couldn’t generate the big inning. Down 11-4 in the eighth with two runners aboard and one out, Apex couldn’t push either across.
Taylor Stephens went 3-for-4 to lead the Nationals while Stuart, Yarbrough and Atkinson had two hits apiece. Sconzo went 3-for-4 for Apex.