CHILLICOTHE — They say that’s it not a bad year, month, season —or even life.
It’s just a rough day, and unfortunately for Portsmouth Post 23, that occurred on Thursday in its Ohio Region V American Legion Baseball Seniors Tournament championship games.
Against not only defending Region V champion but also state champion Yeager-Benson Post 199, Portsmouth fell behind early and couldn’t quite stage a comeback late —as Post 23 fell by counts of 9-1 in ultimately the opener, and 6-1 in the winner-take-all nightcap at Mount Logan Elementary School.
The talented, highly-touted, very talkative, and even collegiate-experienced Yeager-Benson bunch —based in Harrison outside of Cincinnati —had to sweep Post 23 to repeat as champions, and it did just that as both games had a similar feel.
And, we’re not talking about the scorching sun and heat — at the home of Chillicothe’s high school Cavaliers.
That screaming hot weather was a given on Thursday, but both games going the same way —and against Post 23 —probably wasn’t.
In the opener, Yeager-Benson benefited from eight walks by Wheelersburg graduate and Portsmouth pitcher Hunter Thomas —seven of which were regular passes, plus an intentional walk and one hit batter.
Post 199 scored two runs apiece in the opening four innings, then answered Post 23’s only marker in the bottom of the sixth — by scoring once more in the top of the seventh.
Portsmouth, though, could have dented the scoreboard significantly in innings five and six —but left the bases loaded in both stanzas.
In game two, with the winner advancing to next week’s American Legion Baseball Seniors state tournament in Lancaster, Yeager-Benson boasted all six runs through the first five innings —including important insurance markers in the fifth, which answered Portsmouth’s point in the bottom of the fourth.
By then, Yeager-Benson had scored single counters in innings one and three, sandwiched around an initial two-spot in the second —making it at least 4-0 for the second consecutive game.
But Portsmouth got to within 4-1 in the fourth —following Yeager-Benson starting pitcher John Schweeder struggling with control issues all of the sudden.
He walked three, hit two and threw three wild pitches in the inning —as Ironton’s Jacob Sloan scored Post 23’s run on a wild pitch.
However, Schweeder escaped further damage — as he recorded a strikeout, a tagout on Isaiah Kelly sprinting home on a passed ball, and finally a popout to end the frame.
As part of eight runners left stranded in game two, Post 23 left the bases loaded for the third time through 11 innings —and at the worst possible juncture.
Against Portsmouth reliever Brock Kitchen in the fifth, and with the Yeager-Benson bases loaded following two walks sandwiched around a hit batsman, Gunner Kalkoff conked a two-run single to left field —making it 6-1 for Post 23’s largest deficit of the second game.
Yeager-Benson, which did not commit a single error in either affair, outhit Portsmouth 9-3 —despite Schweeder walking four and hitting three of his 20 total batters faced.
Brennan Martin relieved Schweeder for the final three innings, and only allowed a Sloan single to lead off the sixth — and a Holden Blankenship walk to start the seventh.
Schweeder’s only hits allowed were a one-out infield job by Kitchen in the first, followed by Aodhan Queen’s one-out single in the second.
Queen’s hit followed Kelly’s leadoff walk, as both moved up a base on a wild pitch.
But Schweeder struck out Landon Hutchinson for the second out, and got Thomas to ground out right back to him —where he ran to first base and made the putout himself.
Post 23 head coach Josh McGraw said despite his club only needing one win on Thursday for the Region V championship, Yeager-Benson boasted the best overall unit in the tournament.
The only reason Post 199 is the Region V’s sixth-seeded squad is because it does not compete in the SCOL —while Waverly (No. 1 seed), Portsmouth (No. 2 seed), Hillsboro (No. 3 seed), Circleville (No. 4 seed) and Chillicothe (No. 5 seed) all do.
Yeager-Benson sports several first-year college players, including University of Findlay and game-one pitcher Jacob Flaherty, who tossed a complete-game five-hit gem.
“We knew that they had six or seven starters that played college baseball last year, and they are the returning state champions,” said McGraw. “We knew what we were in for, and against a team like that, you have to play perfect, and we just didn’t quite do that.”
Trenton Williams was Portsmouth’s starter in the second game, but he walked three Yeager-Benson batters in a row in the opening inning after a leadoff groundout —and Adam Deitschel’s sacrifice fly made it 1-0.
With one out in the second, Kolkoff singled to center, Brady LeGrecca grounded into a 4-6 fielder’s choice, and Austin Dennis singled to center to score LeGrecca from first.
Dennis then advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored as part of a two-out double steal for a 3-0 lead.
In the third, Deitschel dropped in a double to left, advanced to third on a Williams wild pitch, and crossed to make it 4-0 on Nate Aug’s RBI-single.
Post 23 sent an afternoon-high seven batters to the plate in the fourth, and despite Schweeder’s five free passes, only amounted a single run.
“Our pitching, those walks and hits happen, but you just can’t give good teams like them that kind of ammunition. I was proud of our kids. They battled all day and especially in the second game, we came out with a better approach on the mound and at the plate. But sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to the other team that they are better than you. This is one of those days that we played a great team,” said McGraw. “They battled, we battled, and they got hits when they had runners on second and third or the bases loaded and we didn’t. And their pitching was top-notch, probably some of the best we saw all year. They won, and they earned it.”
While Post 23 lost on the field for Thursday’s Region V championship, they enjoyed a 17-8 season —including winning the championship of the annual Jim Jadwin Memorial Tournament in Chillicothe, and ending as Region V runner-up.
Several Post 23 players are committed to playing at the collegiate level next year.
Unfortunately, Thursday just wasn’t Portsmouth’s day.
“We have multiple kids who are top-tier players and are going to be college baseball players, they just had a rough day today. That happens in this game. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad team, that just means we had a bad day,” said McGraw. “We won a lot of games, a lot of these kids played great this year. In this tournament, I thought we had our best hitting lineup, we turned it on and we smacked two teams in the mouth. Today wasn’t our day, and it is what it is. But we had a good year, we had a good tournament, and some baseball games you win and some you don’t. You have to accept that, and just keep on playing the game.”
* * *
Yeager-Benson 121 020 0 — 6 9 0
Portsmouth 000 100 0 — 1 3 1
Yeager-Benson: John Schweeder 4IP, 1R, 1ER, 2H, 3HB, 4BB, 3K, 20BF; Brennan Martin 3IP, 0R, 0ER, 1H, 0HB, 1BB, 3K, 10BF
Portsmouth: Trenton Williams 3IP, 4R, 4ER, 4H, 0HB, 4BB, 3K, 16BF; Brock Kitchen 4IP, 2R, 2ER, 5H, 1HB, 3BB, 0K, 22BF
W — John Schweeder ; L — Trenton Williams