In life, it’s all about fighting and never giving up until the very end.
Tommy Pinkerman, a retired veteran of the U.S. Navy and a well-respected youth league coach, umpire, and basketball official, has done just that despite facing inoperable cancer. And he’s kicked cancer’s behind twice by keeping a positive mindset that many wouldn’t have despite death staring him in the face.
With a loss staring them directly in the eyes, the Post 23 senior Legion squad showed that they had been observing the nonverbal message that the inspirational 56-year old brought to the table by coming back from a three-run deficit to take home a 6-5 victory over one of its fiercest rivals in Waverly Post 142 behind a go-ahead RBI single from Connor Mullins.
For Matt Miller, the victory was easily one of the more gratifying performances that he’s witnessed since the 2017 season began.
“I loved the fight in the boys,” Miller said. “We got ourselves in a hole down there with a couple of errors, and got ourselves in a 5-2 hole, but we didn’t quit. We just kept chipping away inning by inning and came up big with some key hits in clutch situations that allowed us to get a run here and there.”
As for Jonathan Teeters, his frustration with the Shockers blowing a three-run advantage was summed up in less than 40 words.
“This really was a game where we just didn’t make enough plays to win a baseball game,” Teeters said. “Right now, we don’t have enough guys who are playing with an edge and competing the way that we should be competing.”
Initially, Post 23 was able to assume command of the contest to start as Portsmouth sent seven batters to the plate in the first inning.
Following a pair of singles to left by Mullins and fellow Wheelersburg hand Athan Temponeras — and a walk by Green’s Tayte Carver, which was sandwiched in between the pair’s efforts — to load the bases, it was Minford’s Ethan Lauder who came up with the big hit that started the scoring. His two-run single back up the middle of the diamond allowed Post 23 to take a 2-0 lead after an inning of play as Post 23 — who played a good brand of baseball in the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tournament en route to a title appearance — immediately carried their efforts on over into Tuesday’s affair.
But after Mullins retired the side in order to start the contest, Waverly showed its offensive power by immediately taking the lead back in the top half of the second inning. A leadoff double by Oak Hill’s Shane Spriggs allowed a pair of Scioto County batters in Minford’s Eric Cook, who plated Spriggs, and Luke Lindamood, who plated Cook, to follow with back-to-back doubles. Two additional errors then allowed the Shockers to plate Lindamood as Post 142 took a 3-2 advantage.
In the third inning, Waverly capitalized on Portsmouth’s miscues in the field as Post 142, following an error, a single by Waverly’s Clayton Howell, and a wild pitch, struck. Behind the efforts of Valley’s Tanner Cunningham, who shot a single to right field, and Cook, who laid down a quality sacrifice bunt, Howell and Wheelersburg’s Xander Carmichael were able to score as Post 142 seemingly held control of the affair with the Shockers up 5-2 after three full innings of work.
Post 23, however, had some additional energy up its sleeve.
In the bottom half of the same frame, Carver used a hard-hit double to the left center field gap to collect a leadoff hit, and, following an error, was able to score on a key one-out hit from East’s Drew Lowe to cut the Post 142 gap to 5-3.
“We’ve really started to hit the ball on a line,” Miller said. “We still hit a few in the air and got ourselves out in front of a few balls, but overall, we hit the ball square and on a line. Good things happen when you do that.”
Then, in the fourth inning of play, Portsmouth’s nine-hole hitter, West product Garrett Hurd, successfully turned the lineup over with his rocket of a single to left field. Two batters later, Mullins, with Hurd moving all the way, did the same by launching a base knock down the left field line to score Hurd while advancing to second on a misplay in the outfield. Temponeras followed two additional batters later by delivering a key base hit of his own — that being a clutch two-out single to right field — to tie the score at five after four innings of play.
“I want to be aggressive on the basepaths,” Miller said. “We’ve got quite a bit of team speed, especially with guys like Garrett (Hurd) and Tanner (Kimbler). I like to utilize that speed, take the extra base when we can, and make the defense make a play.”
It also helped that Mullins, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI and three runs scored at the plate, was equally as productive on the hill, especially in the latter stages of the contest. Despite giving up a leadoff hit to Carmichael, his high school teammate and friend, and throwing a wild pitch to allow the senior-to-be to advance into scoring position, Mullins — with Carmichael at third base with one out — struck out Howell and got Cunningham to ground out in the fifth with no damage done in the top half.
“I can’t say enough about Connor today,” Miller said. “Yes, it looks like he gave up five runs, but of those, probably two are earned. He just controlled everything up there and kept them off balance with his off-speed pitches. We really played well overall.”
Mullins, however, wasn’t done coming up big in the clutch for Post 23. After nabbing a one-out single to put Portsmouth in a position to strike, Carver followed with yet another clutch double to left to score Mullins as Post 23 took a 6-5 lead heading into the final frame.
And despite facing the toughest part of the Waverly order in Braden Simms, Carmichael, and Spriggs, Mullins — who only allowed one hit after the fourth inning — came through again by retiring the 2-3-4 part of the order, in order to collect the complete game victory.
“He’s just one of those boys who wants the ball in that situation,” Miller said. “I told him, ‘Post 142 has 2-3-4 coming up here,’ and he just said, ‘Yeah, I know.’ He’s just nonchalant and poised. He doesn’t get startled.”
With an always competitive Jim Jadwin Tournament set to commence on Thursday, the win over Post 142 — along with their performances in the Hillsboro Wood Bat Tournament — has Post 23 trending upward.
“It’s a plus for us,” Miller said. “The Jim Jadwin Tournament is big. We’ll have four games in three days, but I like the momentum that we’ve created. We’re getting things going in the right direction.”
But most importantly, the win — and the way that Post 23 did it — is a great tribute to an individual that has never given up despite the odds that were stacked against him.
“I was happy we were able to do that for Tom,” Miller said. “I’m close with him. He’s one of my best friends. To be able to honor him in that manner is big because we’re trying to get these boys to understand that we are playing for the veterans, and honoring those that protected and served our country. Hopefully, we can give them perspective of what’s really important.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7