Lincoln County Post 455’s American Legion baseball team enjoyed a special 2013 season
By Richard Walker
The Lincoln County American Legion Post 455 baseball team has historically struggled.
The team will enter the 2021 season with a 276-410 all-time record and one winning record in the last 12 seasons.
But that season, 2013, was special indeed for the Cardinals of coach Bruce Bolick.
Lincoln County made its only appearance in the Area IV finals and the state tournament and toppled two perennial powers in historic fashion on its way to setting that history.
After a going 9-5 in East Division play and 11-9 overall in the regular season, Post 455 had to survive a challenging opening round series to get that chance.
The No. 3 seed in the East, which is the second-highest playoff seeding in team history, Lincoln County faced West No. 6 Henderson County.
And rain and a pesky Post 77 team nearly knocked Post 455 out of the playoffs.
Rain postponed three scheduled games in the first four days – Lincoln County won 2-1 on the second day behind right-hander Justin Norton to take the series opener at East Lincoln High.
After Post 455 won the second game 8-1 behind left-hander Hayden Deal – also at East Lincoln – Henderson County swept a home doubleheader 3-2 and 8-1 to force a decisive fifth game on the final day play was allowed in the opening round.
Rain again returned, but not until the bottom of the eighth inning with Post 455 ahead 5-3 behind Norton’s second win of the series. Post 455 had a quick turnaround the following day against Caldwell County at Granite Falls’ M.S. Deal Stadium.
Facing a Post 29 team that had been swept only once in the playoffs in the previous 15 years, Lincoln County played arguably its best baseball of the rain in a dominating three games to none sweep by a combined 41-16 margin behind an offense led by Danny Sullivan, Bryan Seymour, Jacob Hoover, Clay Hodges, Randal Ortiz and David Scoggins.
But that set up an even more daunting task – six-time defending Area IV champion Cherryville.
With Norton striking out 10 and throwing a 4-hitter and Hodges and Sullivan banging out four hits apiece, the Cardinals took the series opener 7-3 at East Lincoln.
With Deal getting the win and Darin Salter the save, Post 455 won 3-1 at Cherryville’s Fraley Field for a 2-0 series lead.
But Post 100 wasn’t going to let its record-setting streak of six straight area titles go that easily – and Cherryville rallied to win the next two games of the series by one-run margins (7-6 and 8-7) to set up another decisive fifth game at East Lincoln.
As in the first decisive fifth game, Bolick was able to turn to Norton and the right-hander came up big again with a 10-strikeout effort boosted Sullivan’s fifth-inning grand slam in a 5-4 victory that clinched a state tournament berth.
Two days later, Shelby edged the Cardinals 4-2 in a one-game Area I title game to determine state tournament seeding.
It left Post 455 with an Area IV No. 2 seeding and a spot opposite Area III champion Randolph County in the opening round of the tournament at Wilson’s Fleming Stadium.
But the Cardinals nor Norton nor Sullivan were done as Post 455 had one more surprise left to spring in a 5-3 first round upset win over Randolph County; Randolph County would eventually rebound to finish third in the state tournament and ended the season with a 37-9 overall record following a runner-up finish to N.C. state champion Wilmington in the 2013 Southeast Regional it hosted in Asheboro.
In Post 455’s win over Randolph County, Norton picked up a his fifth postseason victory on his 18th birthday, Salter got the save and Sullivan and Bradley Hallman had three hits apiece to lead the Cardinals’ offense.
Lincoln County would be eliminated two days later when it dropped a day game to eventual state champion Wilmington and a night game to eventual state runner-up Kernersville.
The Cardinals finished 21-16 overall, which remains the most single-season wins in team history as well as the only winning record in the last 12 seasons.
Norton finished with a 7-1 pitching record to lead a pitching staff that also got solid production from Deal (5-5), David Scoggins (3-1), Hallman (2-0) and Sullivan (2-1).
Sullivan led the offense with a .469 batting average with four home runs and 42 RBIs. Other top hitters were Seymour (.358), Hoover (.341), Ortiz (.317), Hodges (.304), David Scoggins (.301), Hallman (.293), Nathaniel Scoggins (.286), Norton (.258) and J.T. Bowden (.258).