Only one team could stand unbeaten at the top of the Ninth District standings after Tuesday’s showdown.
And that team is Pacific Post 320.
Pacific (12-0, 9-0) emerged victorious from a 9-5 slugfest against Washington Post 218 (10-1, 7-1) in a contest held at a balmy Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field in Washington.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win,” Pacific Manager Cory Cowsert said. “My kids always seem to start slow and then they kick it into gear when they need to. However I preach and preach to them they can’t keep waiting to kick it in. We need to kick it in gear from the first pitch.”
Washington Manager Phillip Kleekamp said Pacific deserves credit for the win.
“You tip your cap to them,” said Post 218 Manager Phillip Kleekamp. “They came out with a plan. They were jumping on the fastballs early and they made us pay for it.”
Cowsert said any time you can beat Post 218 is a milestone.
“After the game was over my players were very excited about coming away with a victory as they should because Washington Post 218 has a very good program and is always a challenge when you play any of their teams,” Cowsert said. “I was glad that we held on and won the game as well but at the same time I am already thinking about the future and looking at the bad parts of the game and what I can do as a coach to help better my team for our upcoming games. I am never settled until it’s perfect. I have always been this way not only as a coach but even when I was playing I expected the same.”
Kleekamp hopes Post 218 can rebound.
“Hopefully we can learn from this,” Kleekamp said. “We did prove we could come back in a tough spot. We knew coming in that this wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Hopefully we’re going to learn from the experience and it will make us a better team.”
Pacific returns to action Saturday with a home nonleague doubleheader against House Springs starting at noon.
Washington played Wednesday at home against Ballwin and visited O’Fallon Thursday.
Post 218 hosts St. Charles Saturday at noon and Elsberry Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
Washington actually took the lead in the bottom of the first inning, but Pacific came back with two runs in the second and three in the third.
Washington rallied for three runs in the bottom of the third, but couldn’t bring the tying run across the plate.
“We got close to getting back out of it and having another chance to hit, but they had a couple of squeakers get through,” Kleekamp said. “It didn’t help that we gave them seven walks and three hit batters. You can’t give a team like Pacific that many chances and it came back to bite us.”
That was the break Pacific needed. Post 320 exploded for four runs in the top of the fifth and held on as Washington added one run in the bottom of that inning.
Offensively, Pacific had hitting up and down the lineup. Post 320 recorded 11 hits with eight different batters finding gaps in the Post 218 defense.
Allen Fitzgerald, Tyler Straatmann and Drew Fonner led Pacific with two hits apiece.
Fitzgerald doubled, walked and scored one run.
Straatmann singled twice and drove in one run.
Fonner scored, walked and drove in a run.
Alex Rice, Tyler Gerling, Noah Brocato, Ryan Howell, Ryan Vogelgesang and Noah Boyer each singled for Post 320.
Rice, Gerling, Brocato, Howell, Vogelgesang and Boyer also scored.
Boyer drove in three runs while Vogelgesang added two RBIs.
Vogelgesang, Howell and Boyer were hit by pitches. Rice and Vogelgesang also drew walks.
Washington was led by Kyle Summers, who had three hits, half of Washington’s total. He scored one run and drove in one.
Ending with one hit apiece were Spencer Juergens, Aaron Meyer and John Himmelberg. Meyer’s hit was a double.
Himmelberg added a walk and scored twice.
Meyer drove in one run and also walked.
Ross Seitter walked twice, stole a base and scored one run.
Ryan Becszlko walked and scored a run.
Todd Feldmann added two sacrifice bunts and was hit by a pitch.
Howell was the winning pitcher for Pacific, going four innings while allowing four runs on three hits and seven walks. He struck out one and threw 85 pitches.
“Howell didn’t pitch his best game by any means but he did a good job keeping us in the game and giving us a good opportunity to win,” Cowsert said. “Howell tends to struggle when he doesn’t get ahead early but however I think that Tuesday night he was wildly effective. He kept Washington off balance because they really didn’t know if they were going to get walked on four straight pitches or get pitches to hit right away. Being a pitcher myself I know how difficult it is to consistently fill up the zone on a daily basis. Everyone has a wild game just like Howell did Tuesday but because he is strong willed he knew in his mind what he had to do to get us in position to win the game and he did that.”
Straatmann, who played for Post 218 last season (Pacific didn’t field a team), relieved and picked up the save, throwing the final three innings. He allowed one run on three hits. He struck out two batters.
“Tyler Straatmann stepped up big for us because not only did he lead us in hitting, but also on the mound against his old team to finish the game,” Cowsert said. “My players have been looking forward to playing Washington for two weeks because they knew it was going to be a good one. Straatmann really wanted the ball to begin the game but I had to have him at shortstop to start the game. I told him that he was the first one in behind Howell. And just like the rest of my players this year he respected my decision and played a big role before he stepped on the mound because he made some good plays at shortstop as well.”
Kleekamp praised his former player.
“He did a good job,” Kleekamp said. “I thought we hit the ball a little bit better than the stats showed. We had a lot of hard-hit outs. That’s going to happen. Tyler came in and did a good job. I’m glad he’s doing well.”
Nathaniel Hillermann took the loss for Washington. He allowed eight runs on nine hits, two walks and three hit batters. He struck out six.
“Nathaniel would be the first one to tell you that his curveball was struggling a little bit,” Kleekamp said. “They put the ball into play. They exceeded the law of averages. Most of the time you put the ball into play that much, you’re going to get more outs.”
Scott Byrne pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing one run on one hit and two walks.
Nick Thiel closed out the game, allowing one hit while striking out two.
Post 218 scored once in the bottom of the first inning. Seitter, Juergens and Justin Baylard reached base before Meyer walked to force home Seitter.
Pacific went on top in the second inning. With one out, Brocato singled and Howell was hit by a pitch.
Vogelgesang then singled and Fonner walked to load the bases. Boyer drove in a run on a fielder’s choice.
Pacific added three more runs in the third, sending nine batters to the plate.
Gerling, Fitzgerald and Straatmann loaded the bases with singles.
With one out, Howell singled in one. Vogelgesang was hit by a pitch to drive in a second run and Fonner hit into a fielder’s choice to bring home a third run.
Washington came back in the bottom of the third. With two outs, Becszlko and Himmelberg walked. Summers singled one run home and Feldmann was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Bollmann drew a walk to bring another run to the plate and a wild pitch plated Summers.
Washington loaded the bases again with a walk to Seitter, but couldn’t add to the rally on a groundout.
The 5-4 lead held up until the top of the fifth, when Pacific exploded for four more runs.
With one out, Vogelgesang walked. Fonner singled and the runners moved to second and third on a wild pitch. Boyer singled in both runs and moved up on a wild pitch.
Kleekamp relieved Hillermann with Byrne and Rice started with a walk. With two outs, Fitzgerald walked. A wild pitch brought Boyer home and Straatmann drove in Rice to make it 9-4.
Washington’s final run came in the bottom of the fifth. Himmelberg greeted Straatmann with a single to left and Summers followed with a single to center. Feldmann bunted the two runners over and Himmelberg came home on a groundout by Bollmann.
“This was a great win for us but we can’t settle,” Cowsert said. “We must keep moving forward and getting better every time we touch a ball, glove, bat, field anything that has to do with the game. There is always room for improvement.”