ASHEBORO - Overachievers.

 Randolph County Post 45 coach Ronnie Pugh said he has never been around a group of players who overachieved as much as this year’s Randolph County Post 45 team. This year’s team has overachieved all the way to the American Legion World Series.

 Dawson Painter fired a complete-game (barely), Spencer Lanier broke a tie with an RBI single in the sixth inning and Post 45 punched their ticket to the World Series for the second straight year with a 3-2 win over Alabama Sunday afternoon at McCrary Park to defend their SER championship. Post 45 (29-17) went through the SER Tournament undefeated. Had Post 45 lost the first game Sunday, a winner-take-all game would have followed. Instead, Troy Post 70 (33-8) was unable to give retiring coach John Rushing his first regional championship.

 Both of Troy’s losses in the SER came to Post 45 and both were by one run.

 Pugh, who choked back tears after the contest, said his team deserves all the credit.

 “This is an entirely different feeling than last year,” Pugh said. “I don’t know if you could have found anyone that would have picked us to be here. I am not sure we would have picked ourselves. All the credit goes to them. They kept working and kept improving and played four or five different positions each. They did whatever it took to help make us better. Once playoffs got here and we got healthy, we settled down into our positions. The credit goes to them. It’s the group of biggest overachievers we have ever coached.”

 Post 45 was 15-14 with one game left in the regular season. That means the team has won 14 of its past 17 games with all three of those losses coming to Rowan County in the Area III championship series, which Post 45 lost 3-2.

 “I didn’t think it was going to happen this year,” said Painter, who earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award after earning one win, one save and hitting .529 for the tournament. “The postseason came around and we started winning and everything started clicking.”

 Painter, who also hit a home run in the contest as well as executing a nifty slide to score another run when it looked as if he would be tagged out at the plate, hurled his 104th pitch of the game to record the second out of the seventh inning. American Legion has a 105 pitch count limit, with the exception being a pitcher may finish the opposing batter once he reaches 105 pitches.

 “I didn’t pitch real well,” said Painter, who gave up two runs on two hits with five walks and three strikeouts. “Too many walks, but I’ll take it. It was a blessing (totalling 104 pitches with one out to get) and I had to go to work. I kept fighting. I wanted to be on the mound at the end.”

 Rushing, who has been an American Legion coach for 21 seasons, said he was proud of his team.

 “I had a great group of kids I really enjoyed,” Rushing said. “This being my last year, I couldn’t have had a better group of kids to go out on. I hate for them that it didn’t have a better end. Hats off to them (Randolph County). They know how to make sure they get done what they need to get done. We lost to the best team in the Southeast twice by one run.”

 Post 45 recorded a 6-5 win over Troy on Thursday night in the second night of action.

 With the game tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth Sunday, Trevor Marsh was hit by a pitch and he advanced to third on two wild pitches. That was the end for Troy starting pitcher Nathan Light, who went 5+ innings, allowing seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. After reliever Reed Jinright recorded a strikeout for the first out of the inning, Lanier, a rising senior at Uwharrie Charter Academy, drilled a triple down the first-base line to break the tie.

 “At first when I went up there, I was a little nervous,” said Lanier, who has played numerous position in both the infield and outfield for Post 45 this season, his first year of American Legion baseball. “Then I was like, ‘I have been doing this my whole life.’ I was sitting on my pitch and able to drive it down the line.

 “Coming into this tournament, I thought we had a shot, but we knew a lot of people doubted us,” Lanier added. “Just so proud of all my teammates, everyone coming together. I always wanted to be on TV.”

 The first two days of the World Series will be streamed by ESPN with the final days broadcast on ESPNU.

 Painter recorded a ground ball out for the first out of the seventh and then recorded a strikeout on pitch 104. He then coaxed a pop up to third to end the game and send Post 45 to Shelby.

 “You kind of feel like things are predetermined or meant to be,” Pugh said. ” You get down to Dawson with two outs and 104 pitches. He would have been sick to have to walk off that mound.”

 Both teams used the long ball to break through early. Troy’s Gage Herring hit the first pitch he saw with one out in the first inning to give Post 70 the lead. However, Post 45’s Painter blasted a one-out homer of his own in the bottom of the first to tie the contest at 1-1.

 Troy, which defeated Sumter, S.C., 7-4, lost to Randolph County 6-5, beat West Virginia 6-2 and beat Kentucky 7-0 to reach the championship round, took a 2-1 lead when Joey Wozniak led off the second with a double and he would score on a sacrifice fly from Brayden Baggett.

 A one-out infield hit and error put Painter on second in the third and he scored on a terrific head-first slide on a double by Bryce Marsh. With Troy catcher D.J. Law in possession of the ball and looking to put the tag on Painter, the Pembroke State player lifted his hand to avoid and tag and reached back to tag the plate. There was no argument from the Troy coaching staff.

 Randolph County stranded one runner in each of the next two innings, while Painter faced just 11 batters in innings four through six, not allowing a hit while walking two.

 Landon Smith, who was released by Eastern Randolph Post 81 to play for Post 45 this season, said he is thrilled to be going to the World Series.

 "I'm pumped and excited," Smith said. "I've heard so much about it."

 Now he and his teammates will get to experience it. For some, for the second time.