CHILLICOTHE — In the end, despite sweeping the Shockers, the Portsmouth Post 23 Juniors just couldn’t keep pace with Chillicothe’s 757 Colts.
But, Post 23 at least brought back a trophy to Scioto County on Saturday —as Portsmouth was this season’s Region V American Legion Baseball Juniors Tournament runner-up.
After eliminating Waverly with a 9-4 victory on Friday afternoon in the losers’ bracket final, Post 23 was back at it against the Colts on Saturday —for the Region V Tournament title, and a ticket to be punched to this week’s state American Legion Juniors Tournament in Lancaster.
But the championship game was a rough go from the get-go for Post 23, as the Colts stormed out to a 7-0 lead after the opening inning —and amassed 15 total hits en route to an 11-1 mercy-rule win, ending Portsmouth’s campaign at 18-8.
On Thursday, Post 23 captured a dramatic matinee marathon win in the event’s opener —a 5-4 13-inning epic against Waverly, in which Portsmouth trailed 3-0 after the first frame.
On Friday, against the Colts in the winners’ bracket final, Post 23 this time staked a 4-0 advantage —with two runs apiece in each of the opening two innings.
However, Chillicothe quickly erased that Portsmouth lead —and scored all 14 of its runs in consecutive fashion, and in its final four at-bats.
Against the Colts in the championship bout, in which Post 23 had to win twice to claim the crown, Portsmouth only mustered one unearned third-inning run on one hit and one leadoff error.
Both of Portsmouth’s Chillicothe contests were called following the fifth inning with the 10-run mercy rule.
In the third, Kolton Salyers reached on a fielding error, and later scored following back-to-back groundouts —including by J.D. Matiz for the RBI.
In between, Jack Picklesimer singled to right field for the Juniors’ only basehit of the entire afternoon.
Facing Chillicothe pitcher Maverick Frump, the only other Post 23 baserunners were Aodhan Queen with a leadoff walk in the second and on another error in the fourth, followed by Bryan Kessinger in the fifth —who was hit by a pitch.
Picklesimer was left stranded by Frump at third in the third, and Queen at first in the fourth.
Post 23 head coach Matt Miller said it just wasn’t his Blue Jays’ day.
“Definitely a rough start to the game, but they (Colts) hit the ball. Of their 15 hits, probably 11 or 12 of them were those Texas Leaguers, just those nice little line drives over the infield plus a couple of good shots to the gaps,” said Miller. “They did a great job of putting the ball in play, and it set us back from the beginning. The kids didn’t quit, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Saturday’s affair was quite the contrast from Friday’s game against Waverly, in which Post 23 opened up a 7-0 lead following four —and withstood the Shockers getting as close as 7-4 in the sixth, with four unearned runs on three hits and Post 23’s only error.
“We challenged the kids in between games to go be that team in the second game that we’ve been. In the first game, we were selfish. Trying to take it all upon ourselves instead of playing like a team like we have all year. We played like a ‘team’ in that second game and we played together,” said Miller. “That was the key.
In fact, against Matiz on the mound for Portsmouth, Waverly made it interesting indeed —after pinch hitter Jamison Morton mashed a triple down the right-field line to clear the bases loaded, and bring the tying run to the on-deck circle after Hunter Hauck drew a two-out walk.
However, Matiz —facing West’s Trevor Fike for the Shockers —induced a groundout to end the threat.
In the seventh, Portsmouth got two runs back —as Rhyan Queen conked a double to deep centerfield, stole second, and scored on an E-2 overthrow.
Following three consecutive walks by Waverly reliever Zack Hannah —to Matiz, Owen Young and Jakob Tipton — Portsmouth made it 9-4, when Aodhan Queen reached on an infield hit off Tanner Nichols, scoring Matiz.
Both teams had eight hits, as Aodhan Queen went 4-for-5 —including a two-out single in the first, a two-run single to left center in the third to make it 2-0, and also an RBI-double in the sixth to make it 7-0.
Tipton went 2-for-4 and scored twice, as he —with a single and a Shocker error in the sixth —accounted for the only other RBI.
Matiz scored twice after being plunked twice, including on Tipton’s two-out sixth-inning clutch single —which made it 5-0 at the time.
In fact, and believe it or not, combining Friday’s first game against the Colts — Matiz was hit four times on the day, including against Chillicothe on a pair of first pitches.
But Minford’s Matiz made his true mark for Friday on the hill —throwing a complete game and stranding Shockers numbering nine, including two runners apiece in innings four, six and seven.
Of the nine Shockers stranded, four were left in scoring position, including at the corners in the sixth — when Waverly got to within 7-4.
Matiz faced 33 Shockers and struck out three, and navigated potential rough surf with Waverly walking six times and banging out eight hits.
“J.D. is a bulldog. If he is having a rough spot, he won’t even acknowledge me if I ask him if he is okay. He wants to get to the next pitch. He threw a great game, a complete game,” said Miller. “His pitch count was around 50 after five innings, then they scored four in the sixth, but then we responded for him and ourselves by getting two more in the seventh. That gave J.D. more cushion, and we closed the deal.”
Unfortunately, Post 23 couldn’t get it done against the Colts, which actually outscored them 25-5 in 10 total innings.
Still, Portsmouth played well enough to take home hardware back to Scioto County —from venerable VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
“This was a great summer and we have nothing at all to be ashamed of. We won 18 games out of 26 played in 35 days and we won two tournaments. Today was just one of those days, and if you’re a competitor you’re upset about losing, but this was a great summer for us,” said Miller. “I thanked the boys personally, for I had a lot of fun coaching them. We’ll continue to build on this and get the program back to where it needs to be and where we belong. That’s back on top.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @paulboggssports © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved