It was one of those games where both teams deserved to win.
Unfortunately, one team had to lose.
Drew Reed drove in the game-winning run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Union Post 297 Junior Legion baseball team a thrilling 1-0 victory over Washington Post 218 on Sunday night at Union High School.
“The pitching dominated this game, but in the end we were able to string three hits together and that’s why we won,” Union Manager Ryan Bailey said.
“Neither team deserved to lose,” Washington Manager Phillip Kleekamp said. “Union definitely deserves a lot of credit. Their pitchers pitched very well, and they were able to make a few big plays when we had rallies going to get out of tight spots.”
Union hosts St. Charles Wednesday at 6 p.m. Washington is at St. Charles on Thursday at 6 p.m. Post 218 travels to New Haven on Friday at 8 p.m.
A classic pitcher’s duel throughout, neither team could muster much offense the entire game. And once neither team could score through the first seven innings, Sunday’s game went into extra innings.
In the bottom of the ninth, Union’s Blake Pickard and Ethan Hughes recorded hits with one out to get on base, setting the table for the game-winning hit. After an out, Reed doubled to left-center, Pickard scored and Union earned an exciting win.
“Blake Pickard has been hitting the ball solid lately and he got it started with a hard line drive up the middle,” Bailey noted. “Ethan Hughes just missed some time with basketball camp and he has a sore ankle, but he was able to put together his best at-bat of the day and just sneak a grounder through the middle to put Blake in scoring position. With two outs, Drew Reed came through with a clutch line drive to the gap on the first pitch to score Blake. Drew was one of the leading hitters on the varsity high school team this past spring but he’s been struggling this summer at the plate. Lately he’s been hitting some hard balls just right at people, so it’s good to see him get this hit and hopefully it gets him going. It was an awesome ending to the game.”
Jerod Mattingly, Dillon Breeden and Hughes handled the pitching duties for Union, combining on a nine-inning shutout. Hughes earned the win, going the final 2.1 innings on the hill. Mattingly went five innings and struck out eight and allowed just three hits. Breeden went 1.2 innings and struck out three.
“Jerod Mattingly pitched an amazing game,” Bailey said. “He did a great job of getting ahead in the count and keeping the ball away from the middle of the zone. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of the 19 batters he faced, which is what really good pitchers do. He was able to shut them down at the same time their pitcher was doing the same thing to our bats. When the game went to relief pitchers, Dillon Breeden was able to come in and give us an effective couple of innings and when he got into trouble Ethan Hughes got us out of a big jam and then was able to finish the game. It was a great job by all three of them.”
Bailey also credited the defense of second baseman Mike Wachter.
“Mike Wachter made two great defensive plays for us, one of which kept Washington from scoring a run,” Bailey said. “In the top of the seventh he was able to slide and catch an infield pop-up that our first baseman lost in the sun. Washington had the bases loaded at the time and would have scored at least one run if he doesn’t make that play. The second web gem was in the top of the eighth. No one was on base but it was a diving catch on a line drive that was heading to right field. It was an awesome play that gave us some energy and when the inning ended their leadoff hitter was on deck. Any time you can keep the lineup from turning over that’s a good thing and Mike helped out with that immensely tonight.”
Union had four hits in the game — one apiece by Wachter, Pickard, Hughes and Reed.
Washington’s Matt Miller definitely threw well for Post 218. Miller went six strong innings, striking out eight, walking four and allowing just one hit. Gus Kleekamp pitched the final 2.2 innings, striking out three, walking one and allowing three hits.
“Our pitchers did an excellent job,” Phillip Kleekamp said. “We allowed one run on four hits throughout nine innings. Any time that you can get that kind of effort from your pitching staff, you should win the ballgame. Unfortunately, we came out on the short end today. Although we out-hit Union, we were not able to push a run across. We played a very solid game.”
Washington had six hits in the game, two from Kody Halmich and one apiece from Kyle Tuepker, Gus Kleekamp, Zach Marquart and Adam Hinson.
Kleekamp noted his team had some chances early in the game. Union’s Reed threw out two runners attempting to steal bases.
“We ran into some outs early in the game that were some tough pills to swallow,” Kleekamp said. “We play an aggressive style of baseball that has led to a lot of success in the past. It came back to bite us a bit today. We lost a runner at third with no outs, as well as two at second — one of which was supposed to be a hit and run. Most of the time, our aggressive style pays off for us. However, Union made a few key plays that stifled us in the first half of the game.”
Kleekamp added his team will move on from the loss.
“It definitely was a tough loss and will stick with us for a bit,” Kleekamp said. “The good news is that we are right back at it (Monday). Hopefully, we can get back on the winning track. Although Union swept the season series, we still have many district games left and can still accomplish our goal of winning the regular season championship. We would like the chance to play Union again. There is a good chance that we can see them in the district tournament, and we look forward to that opportunity if and when it presents itself to us. However, right now, we are still focused on winning the regular season championship.”
Union swept a doubleheader from St. Peters on Friday night, winning 8-3 and 2-1.
In game one, Post 297 scored three runs in the first inning and never looked back. A three-run sixth inning gave Union some breathing room.
“In the first game, we came out swinging and had three hits to start the first inning,” Bailey said. “Overall, it was one of our best hitting games in a while and our pitching did enough to keep the St. Peters bats quiet for most of the game.”
Nick Eads drove in two runs and scored twice, while Wachter, Kendall Sheler, Pickard, Justin Mentz and Mattingly all drove in one run apiece. Pickard had three hits, while Dawson Sickmeier scored twice. Reed earned the win on the mound, striking out four and allowing just one earned run.
“Drew was able to deal with some wildness on his part along with a small strike zone to get through five innings and only give up one run,” Bailey said. “And when St. Peters did score to cut the lead to two, we were able to push two more runs across to make the score 5-1 and we kept going from there.”
In game two, Pickard brought home the game-winning run in the sixth inning. The game was tied 1-1 in the sixth when Eads was hit by a pitch and then St. Peters couldn’t handle Pickard’s ground ball, with Eads scoring from second.
“Our bats fell silent in between games but we were able to get on base with walks and hit batters and we scored the go-ahead run on a throwing error,” Bailey said.
Union had two hits in the game, one by Sheler and one by Bobby Curnutte.
Wachter got the win on the mound for Post 297, striking out three in two innings. Chris Griffin and Mattingly also pitched. Griffin went four innings and struck out five while allowing one run on two hits and six walks.
“The second game ended up being a pitcher’s duel,” Bailey said. “Griffin came out and had to work with a tight strike zone. But he was able to go four innings and keep us in the game. Jerod came in to get the save and had no problem retiring the side in order. It wasn’t our prettiest game of the year, but any time you can sweep a doubleheader you’ll take it.”