MATTOON — When Gunner Theis’ seventh-inning flyball cleared the left field fence for a grand slam, tying the game at 7-7, it seemed Shelby County Post 289/611/725 had seized momentum from Lincoln.
Shelby trailed 6-0 after two innings and still cmae back to tie the game. But it wasn’t meant to be, as Lincoln put up five runs in the top of the eighth and outlasted Shelby County 13-7.
The loss ended Shelby County’s season at 26-13.
“We got back to where we needed to get to,” said Shelby County coach Tony Price. “It’s tough in the losers’ bracket if you don’t have a big pitching staff, which we don’t. We battled, we came back, that’s the way it goes.
After tying the game up, starter Ben Helton retired one batter then allowed two straight runners to reach base. He was pulled for Theis in relief.
Theis found out what the other end of a big homer feels like, as Robbie Meeker crushed a three-run homer to left.
The next three runners got hits, and Theis was pulled without recording an out in favor of Aaron White. Lincoln would score in the ninth to extend the lead, and clinch the game.
All in all, the hitting and pitching just ran out for Shelby County, as they were outhit 23-9 on the day.
“Lincoln, they hit the crap out of the ball, they have all tournament and we knew they were going to,” Price said.
Wildness struck Helton early in the second inning, as he allowed eight batters to reach base in a six-run inning. After one run had already scored, Helton hit a batter and walked a batter with the bases loaded to make it 3-0.
Mason Madigan took advantage of the full bags, hitting an three-run triple to left and push the Lincoln lead to 6-0.
Shelby County cut the lead in the third. With two outs and two on, Hayden Cole hit a double to left-center, scoring both Jake Keown and Michael Baker. Cole went for third, and Lincoln catcher Cody Heinbreder’s throw to third was way wide, allowing Cole to trot home.
With the lead cut to three, Helton settled down, allowing just one run until the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Dane Eimer in the fifth.
Shelby’s big blow came in the seventh inning. Theis stepped up to the plate with the bags packed, following walks by Tyler Hendryx and Keown, and a double by Christian Vonderheide.
The homer was a no-doubter, and Shelby had a chance to take the lead. Luke Hatfield doubled and reached third with one out for Cole. Cole tried a suicide squeeze, but his bunt went mere inches in front of home. Hatfield got a great jump, but was at home right when Heidbrener picked up the ball for the tag.
“We tried to suicide and it didn’t work. I made a pitching change there and that didn’t work either,” Price said. “It seemed like everything I did in the last couple innings pretty fell back on my shoulders.”
After holding off the Shelby barrage, the Lincoln bats got back to work and put the game away. Shortstop Derek Himmel led the charge, going 6-for-6 with six singles, three runs and an RBI.
For Shelby County, Baker was the only player with more than one hit, going 2-for-5 with a run. Theis was 1-for-5 with the grand slam and Cole was 1-for-3 with two RBIs.
Helton took the loss, allowing nine runs on 15 hits in 7.1 innings. Theis gave up three runs on four hits without officially recording an inning.
Posts 289/611/725 finish the year strong, and should be strong again next year, losing Keown, Neil Yockey, A.J. Miller and Andrew Hawkins.
The team did not have any college seniors this year, and will return most of the squad in 2014.
“Only one team is going to end with a win, everyone else ends with a loss,” Price said. We were a pretty young team, we got a good group coming back.
Lincoln 060 010 051 13 23 1
Shelby County 003 000 400 7 9 2
WP - Hupp LP - Helton
Shelby County: Vonderheide (1-5, 2B, R); Keown (1-2, 2B, R, 2 BB); Theis (1-5, HR, 4 RBI, R); Hatfield (1-4, 2B, BB); Baker (2-5, R); Cole (1-3, 2B, RBI, BB); Yockey (1-4); Hendryx (1-3, R, BB)