CHILLICOTHE - Before Post 23 began district play coach Jack Branon said the team would need strong pitching, clutch hitting, and good defense.
It had none of those things in abundance on Sunday in Chillicothe as Chillicothe Post 62 eliminated Post 23 with a 8-1 win at VA Memorial Stadium.
Jordan Russell, who started on the mound for Post 23, looked great at times, as he pitched himself out of a couple jams, but the Post 62 hitters had his timing down for most of the game. On that same note, the defense made several difficult plays but also committed four errors.
Russell's first pitch resulted in a single to left by Post 62's Andy Russell and on his second pitch Chillicothe's Josh Wonderleigh reached base on an error. With the third batter in the box, Wonderleigh tried to steal second but the catcher's throw went into the outfield allowing one run to score.
Post 62 increased its lead in the top of the third inning. After an error allowed a base runner and a walk added another, Post 62 scored on a passed ball and later a suicide squeeze. Post 62 though, had enough of the small ball and designated hitter Justin Waring blasted a home run to left field for the 4-0 lead.
From then on Post 23's defense and pitching held Post 62 until the ninth inning but the offense stalled. Post 23 never earned a base hit. In fact, Post 23's only base runners came on a first inning error, a fifth inning walk, and an eighth inning hit batter.
“Our defense wasn't real tight but we just gave them some opportunities and then the one kid (Waring) hits it out for the exclamation point,” said Branon. “I think (defensively) you just have to give credit to their pitchers. When you don't score your first run until the ninth inning with two out, or get your first hit until the ninth inning with two out it's tough to win a ball game.”
A Wonderleigh home run in the top of the ninth made the score 5-0 and five batters later, a Donnie Willman single scored another run. Dustin Cook, who started the game in right field, walked Wes Bullion to load the bases with two out. Ben Cline singled in another run and Willman scored on a passed ball before Cook struck out Andy Russell to end the inning.
Post 23's final inning at the plate, unlike most innings before it, went 1-2, then a base hit. Caleb Leach, who hadn't played all tournament long, broke up the no hitter with a single up the middle and scored one batter later when Bryan White tripled to right-center. The rally wouldn't last though as Cook flied out in foul territory to end the game.
Despite the season ending loss, Branon said this season did a lot to help rebuild ties with the community to a baseball team with a proud tradition. Branon also said he would return as coach next season.
“We feel like we may have reestablished part of the tradition,” said Branon. “We're not where we want to be yet. We want to be back in the state tournament.”
Post 62 pitcher Jimmy Lump earned the victory for Chillicothe.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com
Post 62 103 000 003 - 8 8 1
Post 23 000 000 001 - 1 2 4
WP: Lump LP: J. Russell
Post 62 - Josh Wonderleigh; 1-4 HR; Waring 1-3 HR; Willman 2-4 RBI; Cline 2-4 RBI.
Post 23 - Leach 1-1; White 1-4 RBI.
Records - Post 23 31-17