MOBERLY — Swinging at the first pitch he saw Saturday afternoon in Moberly, Washington Post 218 Senior Legion player Tony Helfrich hit a shot into the outfield.
But it ended up in the glove of Jefferson City Post 5 left fielder Dylan Brauner to end a Washington rally and allow Jefferson City to escape from the Zone 1 winners’ bracket championship game, 7-6.
“We really felt that if we could beat Jefferson City that we would be in control of the zone tournament,” Post 218 Manager Mike Gardner said. “We jumped on top but could really never put anything else together. They did not give up and kept coming back and eventually taking the lead.”
Helfrich had stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth and Washington on a two-run rally to cut its deficit to just one run.
Trent Leimkuehler led off third base with the potential tying run after reaching that spot on a triple. Matt Jones and Jack Kopmann, who walked against Post 5 reliever Collin Brinker, moved off second and first bases, respectively.
Gardner said he knew Helfrich would get a pitch to hit early in the count.
“We were looking for a fastball right down the middle,” Gardner said. “Brinker is a very good pitcher and I felt that he would be really tough to hit if Tony got behind in the count and after talking to the coach he would groove one early in the count so I felt like Tony needed to be ready to hit the first good fastball.”
Gardner felt Helfrich had a chance.
“We had a chance in the bottom of the ninth to win it and Tony put a good swing on his pitch but just got under it a little,” Gardner said.
The Post 218 rally fell just short, meaning that Washington would have to win another game Saturday evening to be able to stay in the tournament.
In the game, Post 218 took the early lead by pushing four runs across the plate in the bottom of the second. Jefferson City chipped back, scoring two in the third, one in the sixth and finally taking the lead with two runs in the top of the seventh inning.
Post 5 added two more insurance runs in the top of the eighth to go up, 7-4.
Washington’s final rally came up just short of victory.
For the game, Jones had two of Washington’s nine hits and also walked and scored a run.
Leimkuehler belted a triple, driving in one run.
Dilan Bollmann and Luke Hasenjaeger each singled and drove in two runs.
Noah Borgerding singled and scored.
Jack Kopmann singled, drew two walks and added a sacrifice.
Helfrich had one hit in the game. Grant Eckelkamp also singled. Sam Katzung had one hit as well.
On the mound, Brendan Feldmann started and suffered the loss, going 6.1 innings. He allowed five runs (one earned) on nine hits and one walk. He struck out four Post 5 batters.
Justin Schuler pitched 1.1 innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit and one walk. He struck out one.
Zach Pointer pitched the final 1.1 innings, striking out one batter.
For Post 5, Patrick Schnieders was the winning pitcher. Over 6.1 innings, he allowed four runs on six hits and two walks. He struck out two Post 218 batters.
Brinker went the final 2.2 innings and earned the save. He allowed two runs on three hits and two walks while striking out three.
Offensively, Corey Beard posted three hits, including a double. He scored once and added a stolen base.
Connor Hager had two hits for Post 5, including a triple. He scored twice.
Cole Distler had two hits with one run, two RBIs, a walk, a sacrifice fly and a sacrifice bunt.
Ending with one hit each for Jefferson City were Schnieders and Daniel Castillo. Schnieders also stole a base.
Nolan Bax added a sacrifice bunt.
Facing Jefferson City for the second time this season, Washington jumped out on top in the bottom of the second.
Jones led off with a single and moved up when Kopmann walked. Helfrich added a bunt single to load the bases.
Hasenjaeger followed with a two-run single to left. An error in left field allowed Helfrich to score and put Hasenjaeger on second.
With one out, Sam Katzung singled, moving Hasenjaeger to third. Eckelkamp followed with a walk.
Bollmann grounded into a fielder’s choice to score Hasenjaeger with the fourth run.
But after forcing Schnieders to throw 45 pitches in the inning (moving to 60 in the game), Post 218 went quickly in the next few innings. Schnieders got through the next two innings on nine pitches apiece. He needed 13 pitches in the fifth and nine in the sixth as he built up momentum.
“Our hitting in the zone tournament was really a reflection of some of our problems we had all year,” Gardner said. “Sometimes we took great at-bats and made the pitcher really work. Other times we would swing at the wrong pitches early in the count and get ourselves out. I think that was one are in our game that we could have been more consistent.
Meanwhile, Jefferson City remained patient against Feldmann. Post 5 scored twice in the third to cut Washington’s lead in half. Feldmann passed 100 pitches in the top of the sixth and came out after throwing 117 pitches in the seventh.
In the top of the seventh, Feldmann got the first out, but an error put Hager on base and Distler singled. Schnieders drove in Hager with a hit. After Schuler relieved, a sacrifice fly by Garrett Haslag brought home the go-ahead run.
Schnieders finally came out in the bottom of the seventh with Jefferson City holding a 5-4 lead.
Schuler lasted into the eighth, but Jefferson City added two more runs with an error making a huge contribution to that effort.
Brinker got through to the bottom of the ninth before Washington made its last push to win or force extra innings.