Paired up against each other in the opening round of the Senior Legion Zone 1 Tournament, Ninth District rivals Washington and West gave the fans exactly what they were looking for.
With the tying run at the dish in the top of the ninth, Post 218 relief pitcher Brendan Feldmann struck out Nick Cessna to give Washington the crucial first-round win Thursday night at the Howard Hills Complex in Moberly, 9-6.
“It was a big win,” said Post 218 Manager Mike Gardner. “I think it is really important to win the first one and stay out of the losers bracket.”
As its reward, Post 218 (35-8) gets Friday off and will return to action Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Jefferson City-Hannibal winner.
Jefferson City and Hannibal play Friday afternoon at 5 p.m.
“It’s nice to be able to sit back now and watch the game between Hannibal and Jeff City,” Gardner said. “We will be able to do some scouting and hopefully come up with a game plan.”
West, meanwhile, has to fight through the losers’ bracket, starting with an 8 p.m. Friday game against host Moberly, a 15-0 loser to Jefferson City in Thursday’s first game.
Thursday’s game was the sixth meeting between Washington and West this season and the two sides sized each other up like championship prize fighters for the first four innings before the offenses took over. It was the first game of the six played with BBCOR metal bats.
Early in the game, fortune seemed to favor Post 218. Washington struggled offensively against West starter Andrew Smith, but got the big play when it needed it. Trent Leimkuehler threw out Bobby Ehrlich in the top of the third.
“We really did not play that well defensively other than the throw out at home by Trent,” Gardner said.
West finally broke out on top in the fifth inning.
Facing Post 218 starter Tyler Tuepker, West got a leadoff single by Cessna. He was bunted to second by Ehrlich and hustled home on a single by Danny Biggs.
Biggs was chased across the plate on a triple by Austin Verschoore.
Tuepker, the winning pitcher, bounced back to get the final out and then got some help from his own players in the bottom of the frame. For the game, Tuepker allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks. He struck out three West players.
Tony Helfrich led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk. Noah Borgerding then singled. Helfrich crossed the plate when Sam Katzung reached on an error.
Borgerding was Washington’s top hitter in the game, coming through with three hits, including a double in the second inning.
“Noah had a great night at the plate and it will be a big lift to the team if he continues to hit,” Gardner said.
Andrew Sumner, the ninth batter in the order, came through with a clutch two-run single to chase Smith and give Washington the lead, 3-2. Sumner was playing second base with Dilan Bollmann absent exhibiting livestock at a fair.
Sumner managed to get to second safely despite getting picked off. He scored on a two-out ground rule double by Leimkuehler to make it 4-2.
Leimkuehler was Washington’s third batter with multiple hits in the game. He added a single to his ground rule double and drove in one during the contest.
In the sixth, Washington started the next rally when Jack Kopmann reached on an error. A wild pitch moved Kopmann to second and he scored on a double by Helfrich.
Helfrich moved up on a single by Borgerding and scored on a groundout by Katzung.
For the second inning in a row, Sumner delivered an RBI single to plate Borgerding and make it 7-2. This hit chased reliever Tyler Howe from the game.
Sumner went 2-4 in the game, driving in three runs and scoring twice.
“Andrew Sumner also stepped in and had a big night with three really big RBIs,” Gardner said.
Grant Eckelkamp followed with a single and both Sumner and Eckelkamp scored on a single by Leimkuehler. An error after the hit helped to make it 9-4 after six innings. Overall, West made three errors in the inning.
West wasn’t done and the Jaguars worked back to make it a close game.
In the seventh, Post 218 helped West with three errors as two runs crossed the plate. Nick Cessna and Alan Hall both came home in the frame.
West’s third pitcher, Matt Morris, kept Post 218 quiet for the rest of the game, so it was up to the West hitters to try and jump back.
Gardner moved to Jared Walde to relieve Tuepker to start the eighth. Walde walked three of the first four batters he faced and then gave up a ground rule double to Hall, cutting it to a 9-6 Washington lead.
Another pitching change put Feldmann on the mound and he quickly struck out Danny Biggs and coaxed Verschoore into a groundout to end the inning.
In the ninth, Feldmann opened by striking out Kyle Case.
Jordan White followed with a single and a two-base error and Justin Fawcett walked.
But Feldmann snuffed out the rally by getting a pop foul from Ryan Franklin and then striking out Cessna to end the game.
In the game, every Post 218 batter reached base. Luke Hasenjaeger drew a walk while Kopmann and Katzung reached on errors. Kopmann twice was robbed of hits by big plays from Verschoore in right field.