Having successfully toppled Newton Post 20, the third seed, on Thursday in the District 23 American Junior Legion tournament, Teutopolis Post 924 set its sights even higher in the winners' bracket semifinals on Friday, where it looked to knock off second-seeded Vandalia Post 95.
Late in the game, ahead 6-4 after six and a half frames, it seemed likely that Post 924 was about to add another heavy favorite to its recent list of victims and extend the postseason streak. But a two-run seventh from Post 95 forced extra innings and Colin Ledbetter's ground ball with the bases loaded induced a game-deciding play at the plate in the eighth. Zach Schaal, who had singled earlier in the inning, beat the throw home and sent Post 95's dugout onto the field to celebrate a 7-6 comeback win.
"We got the play, we got exactly what we wanted," Post 924 coach Dennis Blievernicht said. "When you're 15 or 16, those things happen."
Post 95 seized the momentum in the eighth and only extra inning when it started with three straight base hits. The third, a double from Ryne Dangbar, forced a potential game-deciding play at the plate, but the runner was tagged out to extend the game, at least momentarily. Cody Runde, who entered the game in the seventh, intentionally walked Nate Ketchem in the ensuing at-bat to load the bases and bring in the Post 924 infield for a potential double play or throw to home. Runde induced a ground ball to Ledbetter, but the throw to the plate sailed just a bit wide and Schaal crossed without much debate.
"We had every intention of winning that ballgame," Blievernicht said. "They're a good team, that's the way it goes sometimes. it was a fun game though, a good game."
Despite racking up eleven hits, Post 924 will now look to keep its season alive in the losers' bracket today at 9 a.m. against Effingham Post 120. The winner will take on the loser of today's 4:30 p.m. matchup between Vandalia and Altamont on Sunday for a right to move out of district action and on to Centralia.
"I told them, 'Every team we play from now on, we're sending them home,'" Blievernicht said.
For much of the game, it looked as though Blievernicht's team wouldn't be joining the bottom bracket. Playing as the underdogs once again, Post 924 drew first blood in the opening inning after a Jake Roepke strikeout. Post 924 answered with back-to-back base hits from Riley Drees and Austin Johnson. Drees singled to right center off Post 95 starter Zach Schaal, and Johnson's double to almost the same spot, with a little more juice behind it, scored Drees from first for a 1-0 advantage.
Post 95 regained the lead in the bottom of the third. Ledbetter and Collin Nestleroad gave the No. 2 seed a pair of baserunners on consecutive singles, before cleanup hitter Jake Bowin's two-out, two-RBI triple to right center had Post 95 in front 2-1. On the next at-bat, Post 95's Taylor Knisley ripped an RBI single to left that scored Bowin for a two-run lead.
The lead remained at two until the fifth, when Post 924 tacked on a three-run inning to push ahead 5-4. Drees, Johnson and Tyler Westendorf connected on three consecutive RBI singles to regain the lead.
"Those guys are swinging the bat like I've never seen before," Blievernicht said. "They're just finally now getting locked in, and everybody's getting good swings."
Post 924 added what it hoped would be an insurance run on the way to victory in the seventh off Kyle Smith' s RBI single to left that scored Johnson, who reached on an error. Yet Post 95 wasn't out of it yet. Johnson, pitching his second inning after entering in the sixth in relief of Smith, started the seventh with a walk to Ketchem and single to Ledbetter. Nestleroad hit a sacrifice RBI to bring Post 95 within one, and a wild pitch from Johnson allowed Ledbetter to coast home and knot the score.
"We've got arms that are just-we just have had to use a lot of different arms in a lot of different places," Blievernicht said.
For the second straight night, Post 924 relied on four separate arms to complete the game. Westendorf got the start, pitching four innings with four runs off seven hits. Smith relieved him in the fifth for one inning of shutout baseball, before Johnson pitched the rest of regulation and Runde took the loss in the eighth.Johnson led the way at the plate for Post 924, finishing with a single, double and two RBIs. Westendorf, Drees, Smith and Runde all closed with one run batted in.
Teutopolis 1 0 0 1 3 0 1 0 6 11 1
Vandalia 0 0 3 1 0 0 2 1 7 12 3
Teutopolis: Roepke (3 1B); (2 1B, RBI); Johnson (1B, 2B, 2 RBI); Westendorf (2 1B, RBI); Smith (1B, RBI); Runde (1B, RBI).Vandalia: Ledbetter (2 1B, 3B, RBI); Nestleroad (2 1B, RBI); Murray (2B); Bowin (3B, 2 RBI); Knisley (1B, RBI); Childress (1B); Schaal (2 1B); Dangbar (2B).