A fast start to the game made the difference for the Pacific Post 320 Juniors in a winner’s bracket contest against Elsberry in the Junior Legion Ninth District Tournament Wednesday at Ronsick Field in Washington.
In the first four innings of the game, second-seeded Pacific scored all six of its runs while keeping sixth-seeded Elsberry hitless, and held on for a 6-3 victory.
“It wasn’t easy. We jumped on them early, like we should have. But we put it in cruise control after that,” said Post 320 Manager Cory Cowsert. “We slowed down and let them back in it. Good teams usually will make you pay for that. Luckily, we picked it up in some timely spots.”
Pacific (26-4) lost to top-seeded Washington 11-5 Thursday in the winners’ bracket final.
Post 320 played in the losers’ bracket final Friday at 8:30 p.m. against either Elsberry or O’Fallon. The championship series is Saturday at 1 p.m. at Ronsick Field.
Pacific qualifies for next week’s Zone 1 Tournament by winning the district tournament or by Washington winning it.
Noah Brocato got the start on the mound for Pacific against Elsberry and earned the win. He worked 5.2 innings, allowing three runs on two hits with six walks, one hit batter and four strikeouts.
“Noah threw the ball well. He just got tired and ran out of gas. His control wasn’t always there, but he was wildly effective. He kept us in the game and got us the win,” Cowsert said. “I had to keep his bat in the game after he was done pitching, so I moved him to second base. It was hard to take Tyler Gerling out of the game.”
Ryan Ray tossed the final 1.1 innings for Post 320 to earn the save. He allowed no runs or hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
“Ryan’s curveball was nasty,” Cowsert said. “It takes a lot of confidence to throw a breaking ball on a full count in the seventh inning with nobody out and one on. Luckily, it was right on spot and he struck the batter out. That was a big pitch.”
Offensively, Pacific collected nine hits in the contest.
Leading the way was leadoff batter Alex Rice, who had three hits and scored two runs.
Allen Fitzgerald finished with two hits, two RBIs and two runs.
Brocato registered two hits (one double).
Tyler Straatmann was on base three times with one hit, one walk and was hit by a pitch. He added one RBI and one run.
Ryan Vogelgesang collected one hit, one walk and one RBI.
Drew Fonner was hit by a pitch, reached on an error and had one RBI.
Ryan Howell was hit by a pitch and scored a run.
Tyler Gerling and Brendan McMillan both drew a walk.
Pacific held the lead throughout the game, grabbing a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning.
Rice singled, moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Howell and scored on an RBI single by Straatmann.
A two-run third inning gave Post 320 a 3-0 lead.
Pacific loaded the bases when Fitzgerald singled, Straatmann was hit by a pitch and Brocato singled.
An Elsberry error off the bat of Vogelgesang followed by a wild pitch resulted in two runs to increase the lead to 3-0.
Post 320 capped its scoring with three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning.
After Rice singled and Howell was hit by a pitch, they both scored on a two-run single by Fitzgerald, making the score 5-0.
Brocato followed with a double and Vogelgesang drew a walk to load the bases. Fonner then reached on an error to increase the lead to 6-0.
“We stranded probably 12 to 15 runners in the first four innings, and we still scored six runs,” Cowsert said. “It could have been a lot easier for us.”
Elsberry scored three runs on two hits and three walks against Brocato in the top of the fifth inning.
There was no scoring in the final two frames.