Effingham Post 120 showed no signs of coming around from its slim two runs on one hit in six innings until Shelby County Posts 289/611/725 took Luke McConnell out of the game.
McConnell gave up one hit and two runs in the first inning against Post 120, but held them hitless during the rest of his outing. Post 120 put six runners on base after the first and before the seventh inning, against McConnell, via five walks and a fielder’s choice.
McConnell pitched with the comfort of an early 7-0 lead that became 11-2 by the fourth inning. He threw strikes and shut down Post 120’s offense, then Shelby County held on for an 11-8 win.
The game changed with one out in the seventh as Post 120 faced Shelby County reliever Tyler Hendryx, who struggled throwing strikes despite a hefty nine-run lead.
“You just have to throw strikes in that situation and make them hit it in play,” Shelby County coach Cary Cole said. “Luke pitched a fantastic game and he threw strikes.”
Hendryx got himself in trouble after retiring Post 120’s first hitter of the inning on a strikeout. He walked Jacob Miller to give the team its seventh base runner in six innings. Then, Neil Williams singled for the team’s second hit of the night. The next four hitters reached base.
Clayton Ruckman, who gave up seven runs on the mound in the first inning, smacked a two-run double to close the lead within seven runs. Alex Hoelscher, who helped extend the game past the threat of a 10-run mercy rule by pitching the last three innings, drove in two more runs with a single.
Hendryx struck out Preston Walker for the second out and was nearly out of the jam by striking out Brennan Poland with the bases loaded. However, Shelby County’s catcher dropped the third strike and overthrew the first baseman, instead of stepping on home plate for a force out, allowing two runs to score.
Post 120’s Jacob Miller came to the plate as the tying run and Cole went to his bullpen in favor of Ben Helton, who threw more than 100 pitches in a game on Saturday.
“He said his arm is good if he needs to come in,” Cole said. “Ben’s going to throw strikes. You can count on it and that’s why I brought him in.”
Helton quickly got ahead in the count with two strikes and forced Miller into a pop out to end the game.
Post 120 scored six runs on three hits and an error to make the game a little more tense for Cole’s liking.
“It was a lot more stressful,” Cole said. “We were sitting here talking, saying we don’t want to see Effingham make a miracle comeback. I’m glad we had a big lead.”
Shelby County built the big lead early on, chasing Post 120 starter Clayton Ruckman from the game after the first inning. They scored seven runs on five hits in the first frame.
Christian Vonderheide led off the game with a double, later scoring on Tyler Romack’s RBI single. Hayden Cole drove in one run and Dylan Ohnesorge drove in two in the inning. Vonderheide got hit by a pitch in his second at-bat of the inning, scoring a run with the bases loaded.
Ruckman and Post 120 went through 10 of Shelby County’s hitters before recording an out on an unorthodox double play, with the bases loaded. Zach Monroe hit a ground ball to third baseman Preston Walker, who started a 5-2-3 double play.
“The first inning was the team I expected to have all year long,” Cole said. “We got up, took pitches, didn’t swing at bad pitches, we took some shots and hit some gaps.”
Shelby County added two runs in the third inning, bringing eight hitters to the plate. They tacked on two more in the fourth inning with some two-out activity.
Walker, pitching in his third inning of relief, struck out the first two hitters he faced in the fourth inning, but started to slide after Vonderheide drew a two-out walk to extend the inning.
Monroe’s single scored Vonderheide, who advanced to second on a passed ball. Romack’s single placed Monroe in scoring position and Gunner Thies drove him in on an error at third base.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shelby County Posts 289/611/725 702 200 0 11 11 2
Effingham Post 120 200 000 6 8 4 3
WP - McConnell (6 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 7 BB) LP - Ruckman (1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 3 BB)
Shelby County: Vonderheide (1B, 2B, BB, HBP, RBI), Monroe (2 1B, 2B, BB, RBI), Romack (2 1B, 2 RBI), Thies (3 BB, RBI), Cole (BB, HBP, RBI), Moore (BB), Ohnesorge (1B, 2 RBI), Probst (1B), Jones (2 1B, BB)
Effingham: Williams (1B), Carie (3 BB), Ruckman (2B, 2 RBI), Hoelscher (1B, 2 RBI), Mayfield (4 BB), Walker (2B, BB, 2 RBI), Bohnhoff (BB), Miller (BB)