Having beaten West three times prior to Saturday’s Ninth District Tournament winners’ bracket final, the Washington Post 218 Seniors needed a fourth victory when it most counted Saturday at Westhoff Park in O’Fallon.
But West was prepared to grit it out on its home turf, surprising Post 218 in 10 innings, 6-5.
The game was the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. Washington won the two Ninth District games and a semifinal in the Blue Springs Wood Bat Tournament.
“We had won the first three games against them, but they’re always going to be tough,” said Post Manager Mike Gardner. “They swung the bats pretty well.”
Saturday’s game was the fourth meeting and first one West won. West advanced to Sunday’s championship game while Post 218 had to go into the losers’ bracket.
“It’s unfortunate that we have to play (multiple games),” said Gardner. “We were in this position last year in zone and came back and won.”
Washington collected 13 hits and committed two errors in the defeat. However, Post 218 stranded 14 runners. West left 16 on base as both teams struggled to take advantage of opportunities.
“When you’re playing a good baseball team, it’s just one or two little things that can be the difference,” said Gardner. “We just needed that one big hit here or there.”
For much of the game, Post 218 looked like it would continue to dominate the season series.
Tony Helfrich scored Post 218’s first run in the bottom of the second. In the fourth, Sam Katzung and Grant Eckelkamp crossed home plate to make it 3-0.
Eckelkamp posted four hits in the game for Washington while scoring once and also drawing a walk.
West came back with five runs in the top of the sixth. Washington scored single runs in the seventh and eighth to tie it at 5-5.
Jack Kopmann helped force extra innings by scoring the tying run in the eighth. Washington again placed two runners on with one out but couldn’t push through the go-ahead run.
Locked in a 5-5 tie in the top of the 10th inning, Gardner brought in Trent Leimkuehler to relieve Jared Walde.
“Trent has got the capability of striking two batters out in a row,” said Gardner. “Jared had pitched great up to that point, but we thought we had a better chance of getting two strikeouts with Trent in there.”
West managed to punch through the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th.
Post 218 had two runners on base in the bottom of the 10th, but couldn’t score.
Washington made two errors in the game, but those mistakes came at crucial times.
“It seems like every once in a while we’ll try to do things too quick instead of just one thing at a time,” said Gardner. “You’ve got to stick with the basics in pressure situations.”
Brendan Feldmann started the game for Washington and lasted six innings. He allowed five runs (three earned) on 13 hits and two walks. He struck out six.
Walde, who was hurt in the Blue Springs Tournament, came back to toss 3.1 innings, allowing one run on two hits and one walk. He struck out two.
Walde was on the hook for the winning run in the 10th inning.
Leimkuehler pitched the final two outs, allowing one hit. He struck out one.
Austin Verschoore, Matt Morris and Danny Biggs pitched for West. Biggs earned the win, pitching the final 2.2 innings of scoreless ball.
Leimkuehler added three hits, including two doubles. He scored once, drove in two and was intentionally walked.
Katzung had two hits while scoring once and driving in one run.
Dilan Bollmann, Matt Jones and Noah Borgerding each had one hit and walked.
Helfrich had a hit and scored. Kopmann walked and scored.
Luke Hasenjaeger was hit by a pitch and added two sacrifices. Helfrich and Katzung also sacrificed.
Biggs also led West offensively with three hits while scoring two runs.
Kyle Case, Jordan White, Justin Fawcett, Ryan Franklin and Jake Dobson had two hits apiece.