The opening game of the Region 5 Tournament between Portsmouth Post 23 and Circleville Post 134 at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe was a rollercoaster of emotion for both teams. Prior to the first pitch, Post 23 Head Coach Matt Miller was confident in his team’s ability to carry their momentum from their last regular season game, which resulted in a win against Chillicothe Post 62, into the postseason. “Doing the same things: execute, playing defense, throwing strikes while we’re on the mound, and putting the ball in play and making things happen” is what it would take for his team to win their opening game, according to Miller. When asked if there was a specific player he would like to see step up for Post 23 to win, Miller said, “We try not to have one guy carry the load of the team; I want all these guys to be excited about what’s going on today and to step up for themselves and their team”.
After a slow start to the game for Post 23, Post 134 proceeded to score four runs in the bottom of the first inning. These runs came as a result of Circleville’s first two batters being hit by pitches, and a fielding error in the outfield. However, Post 23 starting pitcher Ethan Lauder quickly settled in after an errant first inning. Lauder went on to allow only two hits for the next three innings and didn’t give up another run until the bottom of the sixth. “I had to loosen up a bit and get a feel for the game” said Lauder, “It took me an inning, but then I felt dialed in and was able to give my team a chance”. According to Miller, “He absolutely settled down after we had two hit batters, and a ball dropped in the outfield. It was like we weren’t awake at first, but after that and up until the sixth inning, he pretty much shut them down. It just took us a little bit to get started, and the kids battled”. Lauder finished the game with 5 1/3 innings pitched, ten hits allowed, and four earned runs.
It took Post 23 till the top of the third inning to produce their first run, but they didn’t stop at just one. A two out double from Cole Dyer drove in two more runs to bring Portsmouth to within one run at 4-3. Dyer was then thrown out after an attempted steal at third base, ending the explosive top half of the third inning. Dyer finished the game batting 1/3, his only hit being the two RBI double that brought Post 23 to within one run.
This offensive spurt carried itself into the top of the fifth inning, where Post 134 intentionally walked Dyer with runners on first and third. This strategic move prevented Dyer from tying the game with another two out double, but it did load the bases for Tyler Speas. Speas was able to deliver for Post 23 as a blooper to short right field near the first base line dropped and turned into a two-out, two-RBI double. Speas finished the game batting 2/4 with a double, and two RBI. An infield error later, which scored another run, and suddenly Post 23 had a two-run lead heading into the late stages of the game. “They had a couple of errors behind them, that kind of aided us” said Miller, “We didn’t get our heads down, we just kept battling, kept putting the ball in play and making things happen”.
The score remained the same until the bottom of the sixth inning, where Circleville scored the last six runs of the game. When asked if he could tell that the tides of the game were shifting, Miller said, “I was hoping to get Ethan (Lauder) through the bottom of that sixth inning. I felt like Ethan was getting a little tired because his pitches started to stay up. I tried to change speeds on them a little bit by bringing in Cole (Dyer), and they started squaring the ball up”. Dyer finished out the bottom of the sixth inning on the mound with 2/3 innings pitched, two hits allowed, one walk, and four earned runs. Post 134 went on to close out Post 23 in the top of the seventh, bringing the game’s final score to 10-6.
Post 23 will go on to play (TBD) in the loser’s bracket in Game Six of the tournament. The game will take place Wednesday morning at 11:45 a.m. at VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe. In preparation for Wednesday’s game, Miller expects a determined team performance from his guys. “Hopefully we can bottle up our play from the second inning up until the top of the sixth inning and play like that the whole game tomorrow” Miller said, “I know my kids will come back. They’re disappointed because of the way we lost, especially after having the lead, but I know they’ll come back ready to play tomorrow”. Lauder is also confident in his team’s ability to bounce back. In his post-game statements, Lauder said, “We need to be resilient, never give up, and play to win the game tomorrow”. Post 23’s record after today’s loss is 12-15, while Post 134 improves to 27-7. In the event of a Post 23 victory tomorrow, they would play a double header Wednesday afternoon with the second game being at 2:30 p.m.
Reach Jacob Smith at 740-353-3101