Portsmouth Post 23 took a 4-1 lead into the top of the fifth inning Wednesday, but seven Chillicothe Post 62 at bats later, Post 23 found itself on the losing end of the scoreboard.
A six-run inning for the River Bats, capped by Jordie Wonderleigh’s grand slam, gave Post 62 a 7-4 lead en route to an 8-6 victory in the American Legion District 7 tournament at the V.A. Stadium in Chillicothe, sending Post 23 to the brink of elimination.
The tournament is double elimination so Post 23 will have a chance to play its way back into contention today against Washington Court House.
Post 23 started off strong. The team expanded on a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning when Dakota Luster hit a sac fly to score David Shultz and again in the same inning when Aaron Oesch singled in Zach Bukiewicz for a 4-1 lead.
Things got rough in the next inning however. Post 23 allowed back-to-back walks to open the inning and Post 62’s third batter reached first on a bunt to load the bases with no outs. An error allowed one run to score on a grounder to third, keeping the bases loaded.
Post 23 got the next batter to fly out to right and threw a runner out at home on the next at bat.
Needing just one out to get out of a serious jam with limited damage, Post 23’s luck ran out and Wonderleigh took a 2-1 pitch over the left field fence to break the game open.
“We did a nice job building a lead and then had the one inning where they jumped in and scored six runs,” Post 23 coach Jack Branon said. “We just never could really come back from that. We had some chances.”
Post 23 scored one run each in the bottom of the fifth and sixth innings but that was it. Post 62 added another run in the top of the seventh.
Though Post 23 didn’t score in the final three innings it wasn’t for lack of opportunity.
In the bottom of the eighth inning Nick Kemper walked, Oesch hit a single and Josh Myers beat out a close throw for an infield single to load the bases with two outs.
Wes Loop was up to bat, worked a full count and took ball four — or so it seemed. The umpire ruled the pitch, which appeared to be outside, strike three.
“The strike zone changed from pitch to pitch so nobody knew what the strike zone was,” said Branon, who argued the call and was ejected from the contest. “That’s not to make an excuse because we didn’t hit the ball a couple times with men in scoring position and we made some outs and we didn’t get the job done ourselves either.”
Post 23 had one more chance in the bottom of the ninth. Bryce Hall walked, Shultz singled and Luster sacrifice bunted them over to second and third with one out — putting the winning run at the plate. The final two batters managed good contact but both shots found the gloves of Post 62 fielders to end the game.
“We had the tying run at second base with Bukiewicz and Kemper up,” Branon said. “You can’t ask for two better guys to be up in that situation but sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t. It’s just one of those things.”
Post 23 and Washington Court House play today at the V.A. at 9 a.m.
NOTES: The same team, Post 62, sent Post 23 to the loser’s bracket last season as well but Post 23 came back to win the tournament and make a run at state. Post 23 is now 3-2 against Post 62 this season. Post 23 is 1-1 against today’s opponent Washington Court House.
JOHN STEGEMAN can be reached at email@example.com