ASHLAND, Ky. — Over the course of the 2018 American Legion Baseball season, the Portsmouth Post 23 Senior Legion squad has, more often than not, found a way to get the bats rolling for big frames.
Friday afternoon’s contest between Post 23 and the Huntington Hounds’ 16U program proved to be no different.
Behind a four-run fourth inning and a sixth-run fifth frame that was led in part by three RBI from Brayden Davis, two RBI each from Cole Dyer and Jarrett Stamper, and multi-hit efforts from Dyer, Ethan Lauder, and Jesse Jones, the Seniors overcame an early 3-0 deficit to take a 4-3 lead after four innings of work, then overcame a four-run fifth inning by the Hounds’ 16U squad by tacking on six additional runs en route to taking the lead for good as Post 23 won its opening affair in the July 4th Tournament, which is being held at Central Park in Ashland, from Friday through Sunday.
For Matt Miller, the resiliency that he saw on Friday evening was certainly an effort that he’ll gladly take from his youngsters.
“It was a resilient effort on the part of our guys,” Miller said. “We took the lead after getting behind early, and after giving it back in the following half-inning there in the fifth, responded with a really important fifth inning that gave us the lead there for good.”
After falling behind early via a pair of singles, an error, and an RBI groundout in the opening frame of action, along with a pair of errors in the third frame of play that led to another run, Post 23 began its rally in the top half of the fourth frame when Tyler Speas and Ethan Lauder collected back-to-back singles to begin the frame. Both runners then advanced on a wild pitch on the next at-bat.
When a pair of strikeouts put Post 23 (10-9 after Friday) in danger of leaving the scoreboard blank again, Jared Morrow, who started the contest on the mound for Portsmouth, stepped up by drawing a walk to load the bases, and after a stolen base by Morrow, Speas followed by crossing the plate on a wild pitch. Jarrett Stamper followed the sequence up with a single that landed in between the mound and home plate and was fielded without a throw, which allowed Lauder to score, and — following a steal of second by Stamper — Davis followed with his own base knock to right, a two-RBI variety knock, to put Post 23 ahead by a 4-3 tally after four innings complete as Portsmouth batted around.
The Hounds’ 16U squad, however, kept Post 23 on its heels.
When Thomas Blaydes followed with a critical RBI triple that kickstarted a four-run frame for Huntington, the Hounds looked as if they had control of the contest as the 16U squad took a 7-4 lead — and did so without collecting any outs on the board.
However, Will Darling, after coming on in relief of Morrow on the mound, retired three of the next four batters that he faced without allowing a hit, and in the bottom half of the fifth inning, Post 23 made sure that its final rally would hold up.
After a leadoff walk by Speas, Lauder followed with his second hit in as many innings to left field, and an error on the same sequence allowed both players to move up to second and third base, and Jones, who came in on a double-switch for Nichols, drove in Speas on a well-hit shot to right field. Then, following Lauder’s sprint home on a passed ball, Darling, Stamper, and Davis combined to draw three consecutive free passes, which allowed Portsmouth to take an 8-7 advantage, and with two out, Dyer responded by launching a pitch down the third base line to score two additional runs and set the final score.
“We scored 10 runs in two innings there, and they kickstarted both innings by getting on base with hits or walks or however they had to get on,” Miller said of Speas and Lauder. “They kind of kickstarted our rally for us.”
As a whole, however, it was Darling’s relief effort that arguably proved to be among the biggest effort of them all. The Wheelersburg junior-to-be didn’t allow a hit in his three innings of action en route to obtaining the decision and struck out a trio of batters while only walking a pair by comparison.
“Will throws the baseball really well,” Miller said. “In those three innings, his pitch count was in the low-3os. He just stays in the zone, works the corners, and is not afraid to pitch to contact and trust the defense that is behind him. That’s what you have to do.”
Post 23 fell by a 6-3 tally to the Huntington Hounds’ 18U program on Saturday afternoon in Central Park. The Seniors, who are now 10-10 on the year, played Ashland (Ky.) Post 76 at 10 a.m. and South Charleston (W. Va.) Post 94 at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.
A complete rundown of each of the three contests from Saturday and Sunday will be included in a future edition of the Daily Times. For more information, visit www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT