Rivalry games usually tend to lead to boundless amounts of energy — especially when most of the players participating know each other, and, in some cases, play on the same high school teams.
For Portsmouth Post 23 and Waverly Post 142, this fact was especially the case on Monday evening, where both units fought each other to a near-deadlock in a doubleheader — which included the conclusion of a 26-day abbreviated contest — at Branch Rickey Park. By the time the dust had settled, both programs had split Monday’s affairs against each other, and the rivalry between the two programs proved to be as heated as it had ever been, as a 3-1 nine-inning victory for Post 23 and a 4-3 victory for Post 142 indicated.
Game 1 — Portsmouth Post 23 3, Waverly Post 142 Shockers 1 (F/9)
After a sacrifice fly RBI by Talon Osborne in the first inning and a solo home run by Cole Dyer in the third frame of action back on Wednesday, June 13, the game was postponed due to rain, and three additional attempts to make the contest up all were wiped out due to weather conditions.
When the game finally resumed on Monday evening in Portsmouth, both units, as they did on June 13, fought to a deadlock. In the top of the ninth, however, Post 23 obtained the upper edge.
After putting two runners on in the seventh and eighth innings via a pair of singles by Jesse Jones and Tyler Speas on the first occasion and an error, along with a walk by Ethan Lauder on the second occasion, Post 23 made its third occasion a charm as Dyer’s single back up the middle of the diamond was followed by two walks, including a one-out free pass to Speas and a two-out base-on-ball to Seth Nichols. An infield error on a groundball then allowed Dyer and Speas to come across with the winning tallies.
Dyer, who finished what Tanner Kimbler started in the latter’s effective five-inning outing back on June 13, hurled four innings of two-hit baseball in relief of Kimbler. The Rio Grande signee struck out four and walked only one batter in the victory.
“The thing with Cole is that he wants the ball in his hands,” Post 23 head coach Matt Miller said. “We talked about it after the game on Sunday and asked, ‘Who is up for finishing the first one on Monday?’ Cole said, ‘I want the ball.’ He wanted to go out there, pitch those innings, and finish it off for us. He wanted it. He wanted the win. That was the same way in the second game. Even when Marty (Knittel) hit that double, he still wanted it. You’ve got to respect that and appreciate the fact that, in tight situations, he wanted the baseball.”
Tanner Cunningham, who went the full nine innings across two separate days as part of the contest’s conclusion, gave up 11 hits but remained as poised as he was on June 13 by striking out seven Post 23 batters in all and forcing Portsmouth to leave 14 runners on base in the contest.
“We made a couple costly mistakes and it bit us,” Post 142 head coach Jonathan Teeters said. “Tanner tossed a nice game for us, but we just couldn’t muster up enough run support.”
Game 2 — Waverly Post 142 Shockers 4, Portsmouth Post 23 3
On the day that he signed with Shawnee State, Marty Knittel followed up his fellow Scioto County pitching hand by throwing a complete game of his own and adding in a game-winning double to boot as the Shockers pulled out a 4-3 victory over Post 23 in a tight affair that was full of high-energy.
“I guess that you could say that it’s turning into an intense rivalry,” Miller said. “It was a very intense, very competitive slobberknocker with both teams throwing blows. It was a very well played game both ways.”
Early on, Post 23 pulled ahead. With one out and Jake Ashkettle on first base, Dyer singled back up the middle, and both players moved up into scoring position on a wild pitch.
When Dyer was caught leaning off of third base, the Rio Grande signee had to sprint to third, which forced Ashkettle to move toward home plate. In a wild play, Gillen’s throw beat Ashkettle to the plate, but the utility player from Valley leaped over the tag of catcher Luke Lindamood en route to scoring the game’s opening run and putting Post 23 out in front by a 1-0 tally after an inning of play.
As both teams settled in, Ashkettle got going in a different form.
On the mound, the Valley product went six full innings and allowed just six hits in his time on the hill while striking out four en route to putting together one of his better pitching performances of the American Legion campaign. His effort was aided by an excellent catch from Will Darling, who added in another web gem by making a shoestring grab away from his body to end the top half of the third frame, and Ethan Lauder, who made a critical sixth inning catch in left field.
His efforts led to Post 23 establishing what seemed to be firm control of the contest, as a leadoff walk and a single by Dyer allowed Lauder to drive in a pair of runs with his two-RBI single back up the middle of the diamond in the third inning of action, which put Portsmouth in front by a 3-0 margin after three innings of work.
“Jake’s athletic ability to be able to jump around Luke on that play was wild. It wasn’t drawn up that way, believe it or not,” Miller chuckled. “We were just able to capitalize on that. On the mound, Jake went through spells where he was wild, but he only gave up one earned run and threw the ball really well as a whole. I’m proud of the way he threw the ball.”
In one half-inning, however, Post 142 came right back and erased the lead.
Following an error to start the inning, back-to-back singles by Luke Lindamood and Kannon Pack allowed Waverly to get a run back, and when a walk to Gillen loaded the bases, a second error on a double play ball allowed two additional runs to cross as Post 142 tied the score at three apiece.
From there, both teams battled to a stalemate until the top half of the seventh inning, when Marty Knittel, who threw a complete game five-hitter with four strikeouts, took over. In the seventh, Talon Osborne, who doubled with one out on the scoreboard, was recycled home by Knittel, who, after signing with Shawnee State earlier Monday morning, drove in Osborne with his own RBI double. Knittel then remained poised as the senior survived an error, a Brayden Davis single, and a hit by pitch en route to inducing a fly out with the bases loaded with two men gone en route to recording a complete game victory on the mound.
“That was one of those ‘what athletes live for’ moments,” Knittel said. “It felt great! We came in off the field and I told the guys, ‘It’s tied up going into the seventh. Let’s just get this game over and score! I was determined to come through for the team. It was one heck of a team victory and everyone played a huge role in that game!”
“Marty Knittel was absolutely feeling it out there today,” Teeters said. “He was lights out on the mound and clutched up when we needed him the most in the seventh. When he comes out with the guns blazing like he did tonight, he’s a tough guy to square up.”
With the split, Post 23 sits at 2-6 in the South Central Ohio League (SCOL) and will play Chillicothe Post 757 on Thursday evening at Branch Rickey Park at 6 p.m. Post 142, who is 5-2 in the league, played host to Chillicothe Post 757 on Tuesday evening. That game commenced at 5:30.