Ben Whitehurst tosses gem to lead Post 10 to 13th state title

***Click here to view a gallery of 45 photos from the action***

For the third time in five seasons and 13th time overall, Wilmington Post 10 rules American Legion Baseball in North Carolina.

Southpaw Ben Whitehurst (Hoggard) held the Queen City offense in check for the second time in five days by scattering five hits in a complete game to lead Wilmington to a 3-0 victory in the tournament title game Saturday at Campbell University.

Wilmington (22-9), which was playing in the championship game for a remarkable fifth straight tournament, also claimed titles in 1956, 1959, 1960, 1962, 1970, 1980, 1994, 1995, 2012, 2013, 2018 and 2019.

Wilmington Post 10 players celebrate after claiming their record 13th state title. [Carter Ponnett/Coastal Preps]

“We had a bunch of kids back from last year’s team that was right there knocking on the door, and I think they came out this summer wanting more,” Wilmington coach Scott Sandlin said. “They came out hungry today and you could tell with their celebration.”

Whitehurst and right fielder Jason Culley (Southeastern CC) are the only members of the 2019 team who are still with the program. Sandlin gives them a lot of credit for passing the culture down to the younger players.

“They were babies on that 2019 team,” Sandlin said. “I can remember Ben pitching against a Fuquay-Varina team that had six or seven Division I kids in their lineup, and he stood toe-to-toe with them.

“Culley was just a reserve outfielder who would come in and run bases and play a little defense for us in those days, and now here he is bookending it with another title. I’m tickled to death for both of those guys.”

Jason Culley (middle) and Ben Whitehurst (right) were also members of the 2019 state championship team. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

Wilmington will open the Southeast Regional against Florida state champion Belleview Post 284 on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. in Asheboro.

Whitehurst anchored a pitching staff that allowed only 11 runs in five games at the state tournament. He also tossed 5 1/3 scoreless innings against Queen City in pool play on Tuesday. 

Wilmington didn’t get the same kind of offensive output in the championship game as it did in Friday’s 14-4 mercy-rule victory over defending champion Fuquay-Varina, but the three runs were plenty for Whitehurst, who needed only 82 pitches to record 21 outs.

After Korbin Pettigrew (Hoggard) and Logan Ponnett (Hoggard) worked back-to-back walks to begin the bottom of the first inning, shortstop Spencer Nolan (Hoggard) laced a double down the left field line to score Pettigrew with what turned out to be the game-winning run.

Ponnett then scored on an RBI groundout from Bennett McNeill (Hoggard).

Third baseman Logan Ponnett hit a team-best .429 in the tournament. [Tim Hower/Coastal Preps]

The other run came in the second inning on a sacrifice fly from Pettigrew that allowed Conner Marren (New Hanover) to cross the plate.

Ponnett finished the tournament 6-for-14 with four RBIs and four runs scored, while Marren was 5-for-12 with six runs scored and four RBIs. Pettigrew also scored six times from the leadoff spot.

Wilmington faced some adversity prior to the playoffs when three players were ruled ineligible. Starting catcher Jack Cuba (New Hanover) was also lost for the season with a leg injury. 

Those setbacks didn’t alter the goals for a program that enters every season with asperations of reaching the World Series for a third time.

“There were a lot of subplots that went into the fuel to do this, but the bottom line is we have a bunch of good kids who just would not give up,” Sandlin said. “I’m as proud as I could be of them.”