PORTSMOUTH — While the Raceland Ramblers rendered revenge on Portsmouth Post 23, the host Juniors didn’t do much to aid their own cause.
Less than a week after Post 23 crossed the Ohio River —and arguably earned one of its better victories for this shortened summer season by defeating the Ramblers —Raceland returned quite the favor on Tuesday, rolling the Juniors 13-4 at Portsmouth High School’s Hatcher Field.
The contest marked Post 23’s regular-season finale —as it ended, including with an impressive doubleheader sweep over visiting Chillicothe 757 on Sunday, at 15-8-1.
And, that was following an 0-3 start, in which the Juniors —under second-year head coach Josh McGraw —got blown out at Lancaster in a season-opening twinbill.
Those Juniors just didn’t get good defensive play, and didn’t do much in the way of hitting either.
But Post 23 won 15 games from there, lost only six and tied once.
Unfortunately on Tuesday, the Juniors didn’t end their month-long regular season on a high note —as they now have three days off before Saturday’s four-team double-elimination “Region 5” tournament.
In response to the coronavirus threat, the Ohio High School Athletic Association cancelled this past season —as its mandatory no-contact period for baseball and ALL sports originally extended thru May 31.
At the American Legion level, the cancellation dominoes fell their way backwards — as in early April the 2020 American Legion World Series and all eight regional tournaments announced their cancellations.
A month later, on May 4, the Ohio American Legion announced it was cancelling its annual state and region tournaments.
That left ANY Legion season, or any independent league, in severe limbo for the summer — but as part of his “Responsible Restart Ohio” plan, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine announced on May 21 that any “low contact” or “non contact” sports can begin as of Tuesday, May 26.
Indeed, Post 23 wanted to sponsor summer baseball — and succeeded in doing so.
It was playing “an independent season following American Legion Baseball rules and guidelines”, as other region clubs for this summer included Chillicothe Post 757, Hillsboro Post 129 and Waverly Post 142.
Against the Ramblers a week ago, the Juniors got excellent pitching from starting hurler Daewin Spence —who only allowed an unearned run on three hits while striking out four.
The Post 23 defense did its job as well with only one error —unlike on Tuesday when it committed eight and struggled to support its staff of Spence, starter Kaleb Seals and left-handed reliever Brock Kitchen.
Each of the three went at least two innings, as Spence was charged with the pitching loss — after going two and two-thirds frames and facing 21 total Ramblers.
He allowed 10 runs on seven hits with four free passes, but only three of his runs allowed were even earned.
Kitchen cleaned up for the final two and one-third, as he faced 15 batters while allowing two unearned seventh-stanza runs on three hits and three free bases.
He did strike out six, and actually minimized the damage once Post 23 fell behind by as much as 11-4 following the fifth.
Raceland scored at least once in every inning except the opening and penultimate, rapping out 13 hits and scoring at least three runs apiece in the third thru fifth frames —including the four-run fifth which made it 11-4.
While Raceland is a quality club, the Juniors did everything they could to assist the Ramblers in the return tilt.
“The eight errors probably could have been 10. We made 10 defensive mistakes, and only two of them didn’t count as errors, but they cost us runs. It was a tough day for our pitchers. They looked tired and we had a lot of 3-ball or 2-0 counts on batters. And they didn’t get a lot of help behind them. Sometimes that happens, and that’s very much how it was our first weekend of the season,” said McGraw. “We haven’t done that since, and we’ve been very proud of them for the almost 20 games in between. It was just an abnormal day today where we looked worn down and made a lot of mistakes, and you just can’t do that against a good team. They will eat you alive when you do. You have to catch the ball, and if you catch the ball, you have a chance to win any game. Today, we just didn’t.”
The Ramblers’ first four runs to take a 4-2 advantage after two-and-a-half were all earned —including an Eli Sayre RBI-single in the first and a two-run triple by Parker Fannin in the third.
Trailing 4-3 after getting a run back in the third on a balk, Portsmouth made four errors in the fourth with three unearned runs crossing —followed by four more markers on three more miscues in the fifth.
Jake Holtz, who paced the Ramblers by going 3-for-5, hammered a two-run triple to the right-field gap for a 10-4 cushion —as he proved to be the final Rambler Spence saw.
A final throwing error with two outs in the seventh allowed for the final two Raceland runs.
The Kentuckians did leave 11 baserunners aboard, but their two tossers of starter Clay Coldiron (3IP, 18BF, 3R, 1ER, 2H, 6BB, 0HB, 3K) and reliever Cam Pullin (4IP, 21BF, 1R, 1ER, 5H, 3BB, 0HB, 4K) combined to strand an astonishing 13 Juniors.
Post 23 left a runner at third in the first, a runner on second in the sixth, runners on the corners in the second, men on second and third in the third and fifth, and most notably the bases loaded in the fourth when the Juniors only trailed 7-4 with one out.
In the fourth, Blake Stuntebeck singled —and following back-to-back walks —Caeleb McGraw muscled out an infield hit to score Stuntebeck.
But Pullin rallied back for back-to-back 5-2 fielder’s choices, followed by an inning-ending looking strikeout to leave the bags full.
The Juniors’ other five hits were scattered —Hayden Yerardi’s infield hit in the second, Seals’ single to lead off the third, Yerardi’s single to right in the fifth, Kitchen’s double to lead off the sixth and finally Tyler Duncan’s infield hit in the seventh.
“We couldn’t get the big hit and I know we had the bases loaded at least three times. We had guys striking out today that normally don’t,” said Coach McGraw.
Perhaps playing 24 games with 28 total scheduled over 30 days was quite taxing, but the Juniors can now recharge some dead batteries before Saturday.
Hillsboro hosts the “region” tournament at Shaffer Park, and Post 23 plays the hosts in the opener at 11 a.m.
“We have the (region) tournament this weekend, so hopefully we can recoup a little the next three days, get our pitching back in order and go play good baseball on Saturday to end things on a good note,” said McGraw.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved