American Legion playoff baseball officially came to a close for local teams Saturday afternoon in Jackson.
We were blessed with another fantastic summer of baseball from the local teams.
The Washington Post 218 Freshman team secured the highest finish of any local squad, winning the Missouri State Tournament at Rotary Recreational Complex - Ronsick Field. Washington had to record an amazing comeback against Jackson, rallying from a 9-1 deficit to win 12-10, before coming back to beat Ste. Genevieve twice in the championship series.
Scott Forrester’s team went 31-11 for the season, rallying from a rough start to finish second in the Ninth District regular season.
During the Ninth District Tournament, Post 218 handed St. Charles its first loss of the season, but finished second in the tournament as St. Charles won the championship series.
Entering state play as the host team, Post 218 opened with two wins before having to fight back through the losers’ bracket.
And, in the winner-take-all game, Washington broke a scoreless tie in the top of the seventh to win, 3-0.
That was Washington’s second Freshman Legion state title with the other one coming in 2012.
It also marks the third time a Post 218 team has captured the highest title possible for its age group. Freshman Legion action is only at the state level. The 2005 Juniors won at the regional level. There is no national tournament for Juniors.
This year’s Post 218 Junior Legion team had an interesting run, finishing third in the state tournament in Jackson last weekend at 28-6.
Post 218 probably should have finished higher in the final standings. Washington had a 10-0 lead over Eureka in the losers’ bracket final Saturday before falling 11-10 in nine innings.
I can’t say I’ve ever seen so many huge comebacks this season. Saturday’s loss was the biggest comeback. Washington did rally from four runs down in the 10th inning against St. Peters in the district tournament and the Freshmen came back from eight runs down in the state tournament.
Phillip Kleekamp’s team had a very successful season while blending players from a number of different schools. It should help tremendously for the 2015 high school season.
Washington finished third in the regular season Ninth District standings before sweeping the district and zone tournament titles to advance to the state tournament.
Jackson ended up winning the state championship and will represent Missouri in Leavenworth, Kan., this week at the regional event. Former Post 218 Manager Tom Schroeder, who serves on the state committee, pointed out that both state tournaments played so far have been won by the host team.
It was a different season for the Post 218 Seniors, who finished at 27-12. It also was an odd ending for Mike Gardner’s team.
Even if it didn’t win the Ninth District Tournament, Washington had a few other ways to get into this past weekend’s Zone 1 Tournament, but with St. Charles winning the championship, Washington was knocked out and West, Daniel Boone and St. Charles went on in postseason play.
One hates to use the term “rebuilding” to describe a season, but with the Seniors, it probably fits. The Post 218 Seniors have spoiled us over the years with trips to the state and zone tournaments. Most teams don’t advance beyond the district level and this year proved to be one of those years for Washington.
Post 218 introduced a lot of new players into the lineup this year and at least 12 of them should be back next year. Many were on that 2012 Freshman Legion state championship team, or played in the Junior Legion state tournament last year. Post 218 will be back next year, stronger than ever.
At the Zone 1 Tournament, Jefferson City Post 5 repeated as champion, winning the if-needed game over West at Lindenwood University Sunday.
It’s difficult to say how things will be next summer. I would suspect Washington would be one of the top teams again in the Senior Legion division based upon returning players and players moving up from the Juniors.
Union had a major debut in Junior Legion baseball this season, finishing second in the Ninth District regular season standings before losing to Elsberry in the district tournament.
It was a great return for Post 297, which hadn’t fielded a team in years. Manager Ryan Bailey had enough help to deal with the pesky contact days deal, where he and his staff had to take time off to keep from surpassing the MSHSAA quota.
How Union copes with that next year, with many of the players likely going to have to play at the Senior Legion level (does Union form a second team, or does it send those players somewhere else like Washington?) is something to be decided.
The case against expanding too rapidly probably can be made after watching Pacific Post 320 this season. They went from two to three teams this year and had a rough season. I know there was a lot of frustration and a lot of mistakes made. Frequently, those teams needed four or five chances to get three outs in an inning.
We made every effort from our end to cover those teams closely, but didn’t get a lot of cooperation in return. I know when things get brought into order, Pacific will be fine. That’s a baseball town and as long as they get the best players, they should be good enough to qualify for the playoffs in the future.