FAIRVIEW HEIGHTS-Averaging six runs per game in its first two American Legion Fifth Division contests, Effingham Post 120's offense went unusually cold Wednesday afternoon against the Belleville Post 58 Hilgards.
Post 120 chalked up six hits off starter Alex Sandheinrich, but ground into four inning-ending double plays and was unable to get a runner in scoring position. Despite a superb effort from starter Alec Quandt on the mound, Post 120's offensive woes were enough to end its season with a 2-0 defeat.
"Absolutely great performance," Post 120 coach Brian Hayes said of Quandt. "Just heartbreaking to see a kid put up a performance like that and not get some runs for him. I take my hat off, he did a great job. I would have loved to see us get a few more hits."
Though Post 120 was held off the scoreboard, it outhit the Hilgards 6-5. The trouble came when a runner reached first base, as the fourth, fifth, seventh and ninth innings all came to a close on double plays turned by Post 58.
"I think when we get a pitcher who gets ahead and throws a lot of strikes, the infielders are moving and they feel more into the game," Hilgards coach Zach Rakowski said. "Nobody is on their heels, and when the ball is hit, they're ready to make those plays."
Much like Sandheinrich, who finished with two strikeouts in a complete-game effort, Quandt let his defense make many of the plays behind him. In his eight innings, Quandt struck out three with three walks, never surrendering more than one hit in any frame.
"Their pitcher did a great job," Rakowski said. "Some days we're able to scratch out a few runs, it could have easily went the other way with how the game was played."
Quandt held a Hilgard baserunner at third in each of the first two innings, but Post 58 was able to scratch a run across one inning later. Adam Bauer was hit by a pitch in the leadoff spot and stole second to again put pressure on the Post 120 defense.
Aaron Meyer hit a bloop single to center field, and the throw to third baseman Devin Wright in an attempt to pick off Bauer was mishandled. The error scored Bauer and turned out to be all the offense Post 58 needed.
"You just can't take anything for granted," Rakowski said. "Sometimes you get those bounces. Today, that one goes our way."
The Hilgards' lead was extended to 2-0 in the seventh when Bryce Richter connected on an RBI single to right field to score Bauer, his second run of the game.
Held to three hits through six innings, Post 120 turned up its offense late in an attempt to even the score.
"It took us two rotations through our lineup before we realized we weren't going to see a fastball," Hayes said. "It took us too long to adjust to that."
Trying to make up for lost time, Post 120 dinged Sandheinrich for three more hits over the last three innings, with its best chance at scoring coming in the ninth.
Tanner Traub hit a leadoff single to center, giving the Post 120 dugout some life. In the ensuing at-bat, Nate McDonald stung a line drive that appeared to be safely out of the infield, but Meyer climbed the ladder at shortstop and plucked the ball out of the air for the first out.
"That last ball Nate hit, he adjusted," Hayes said. "I never thought that shortstop would make that play. I think he caught it behind him."
After losing some momentum, Quandt hit into a 1-4-3 double play that finished the game.
"You know, 2-0, we're right there," Hayes said. "A very winnable ballgame."
Dirk Levitt paced the 120 offense with two singles, while Clayton Ruckman, Carter Hayes and Traub finished with one single apiece.
With the tough loss, Post 120's terrific season came to an untimely end.
"I couldn't be prouder of the kids for making it this far," Hayes said. "They showed a lot of guys, exceeded everybody's expectations. We made it deep into the division tournament, we were right there."
Effingham 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 6 2
Belleville 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 x 2 5 1
Effingham: Quandt (1B), Hayes (1B); Levitt (2 1B); Ruckman (1B); Traub (1B).
Belleville: Meyer (1B, 3B); Richter (1B, RBI); Bammer (1B, 2B).
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at email@example.com