MOUNT AIRY — Armani Bullock’s first at-bat for Mount Airy’s Gold Star Post 191 American Legion’s Junior baseball team didn’t go well Friday. He was caught looking at a third strike in the bottom of the first inning and his hands were too far up the handle.
“I choked up on the bat way too high,” he said. “I needed to bring my hands farther down, closer to the knob at the end of the bat.”
Bullock’s second plate appearance, in the fourth, got much better results. He blasted an 0-2 fastball into deep left field for a tiebreaking RBI double.
Bullock’s double helped Mount Airy gain a 6-4 win over Funkstown’s Dixon-Troxell Post in Friday’s winners bracket final of the state Junior American Legion Baseball Tournament at Lindsey Browning Field.
“To make it back to the championship game is pretty good,” Mount Airy manager Ryan Staley said. “Funkstown is a good team and played well.”
Post 191, the defending state champion, awaits the Funkstown-Severn Post 276, elimination-round winner. Mount Airy, the only undefeated team left in the four-team tournament, needs just one win to repeat its championship, which closes out the season, and earn the right to host the tournament again next year.
A potential rematch with Funkstown is likely. Mount Airy center fielder Logan DeBord, who had a double in the second, said Friday’s win came against a tough Funkstown team.
“They’re a smart team,” DeBord said. “They’ve got good pitching. We can’t afford to make any mistakes.”
Funkstown jumped on Mount Airy for three runs to start the game, but the Gold Star post took advantage of two Funkstown errors and an RBI single from Matt Gelhard (two hits) for three unearned runs, knotting the score at 3 in the first inning. Mount Airy took a 4-3 lead in the second on a passed ball.
Funkstown tied it with an earned run in the top of the fourth.
Gelhard led off the bottom of the fourth for Mount Airy with a single to right-center, then stole second. Bullock followed with his RBI double. Two batters later, Jake Turner helped clinch the win with an RBI double to right center.
“Our offense kept pressure on them,” Staley said. “We didn’t let up.”
Garrett Osborne pitched a complete game for Mount Airy. Although his pitch count reached 96, nine away from a mandatory cutoff of 105, he remained in control with four strikeouts and two walks.
“I kept up a mix of a two-seam fastball, curveball and slider,” Osborne said. He struggled in the early innings but settled down as the game progressed.
“Garrett got into a nice groove,” Staley said. “He looked really good.”