Washington Post 218 did things the hard way in capturing the Ninth District Freshman Tournament championship.
After losing its first game of the tournament to fifth-seeded Wentzville and going to losers’ bracket, top-seeded Post 218 responded with five straight wins in four days, capped by a 14-0 victory in five innings over Wentzville Sunday in Elsberry.
Washington (22-7) went 5-1 in the district tournament. Post 218 played three of its six games against Wentzville, going 2-1.
“We definitely made it hard on ourselves. We came out a little flat in that first game against Wentzville. They’ve played us tough all year. We just weren’t ready for what they threw at us and we started out on the wrong foot,” said Post 218 Manager Jordan Bierbaum. “Since then, we tried to prove what we have. We challenged our guys on who was going to show up for the rest of the tournament, and the team responded in the right way.”
By winning the Ninth District regular season title, Post 218 already was guaranteed a spot in this week’s state tournament in Branson.
Because two teams from the Ninth District advance to state and Post 218 won both the regular season and district tournament titles, the second team headed to Branson will be Elsberry, which finished in second place in the regular season standings.
Wentzville had two chances to defeat Washington and qualify for state, but couldn’t do it.
Post 218, the defending Freshman Legion state champions, opens the state tournament Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. against the host team, Branson.
The tournament will take place at Pirate Park in Branson. The address is 402 Cedar Ridge Drive, Branson, Mo. 65616.
“We’re going to go to Branson and give it our best shot, just like the other seven teams are going to do,” Bierbaum said. “At the end of the day, we’ll tip our cap if we’re not the best team. If we are the best team, that’s what we expect.”
Post 218 scored early and often in Sunday’s deciding game against Wentzville.
Washington jumped to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning and added three runs in the third, six in the fourth and one in the fifth.
“It was huge to get an early lead. It speaks to the pressure that was on Wentzville. We knew we were already in state, which took a little pressure off us. They had to beat us to get to state,” Bierbaum said. “We know if we can jump on teams early, they would have to come beat us. We jumped on them with four runs in the first inning and from there we didn’t look back.”
Will Davis pitched all five innings for Post 218. He allowed no runs on four hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
“Wentzville has hit us well all year, no matter what pitcher we’ve thrown at them. They’re aggressive at the plate. For Will to shut them out says a lot about his performance,” Bierbaum said. “Will hasn’t been a big pitcher for us this year. He doesn’t have a lot of starts. That might have been the first time he pitched in two weeks. It was a gut feeling on my part. I knew if he was on, it would be our day. Fortunately for us, it was.”
Post 218 collected 11 hits, three walks and took advantage of five Wentzville errors.
Leading the attack were Gus Kleekamp and Blake Pickard, who both were 3-3 at the plate.
Pickard also scored four runs and had two RBIs. Kleekamp added one walk, two runs and one RBI.
Trey Hunter finished with two hits and two RBIs.
Tyler Miller registered one hit, two RBIs and one run.
Joseph Grant added one hit, two runs and one RBI.
Davis finished with one hit and one run and was hit by a pitch.
Garrett Leimkuehler walked and scored. Nik Alferman and Kody Halmich both had one RBI and one run. Halmich also was hit by a pitch twice. Chris Schweissguth drew a walk.
Washington forced a second and deciding game in the championship series with a 9-4 victory Saturday over Wentzville.
Post 218 held a 3-2 lead until it put the game away with four runs in the top of the sixth inning and two more in the seventh.
Washington scored two runs in the top of the first and one in the second.
“It was a back-and-forth battle. We made just enough plays when we needed to and toward the end of the game. We got a few runs late in the game and put them away,” Bierbaum said. “I think that win for us hurt Wentzville more than our win against them in the deciding game. You could tell they were kind of out of it in the deciding game.”
James Dyson pitched 3.1 innings to earn the win. He allowed two runs, one earned, on one hit with four walks and two strikeouts.
Justin Repp worked 3.2 innings. He allowed two unearned runs on four hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
Kleekamp (one double), Leimkuehler and Grant each collected two hits for Post 218.
Leimkuehler added two RBIs and two runs. Kleekamp had two RBIs and one run. Grant scored two runs.
Hunter, Davis and Halmich each added one hit and one run. Halmich also was hit by a pitch.
Pickard and Alferman both had one hit and one RBI. Miller had one hit and one walk. Jeremy Monehan scored a run.
“It was a tough week. To come up here five days in a row, that’s an hour and 15-minute drive. When you put yourself in the losers’ bracket, that’s what you’re faced with,” Bierbaum said. “When you factor in the drive every day, I think it makes what our team was able to do even more impressive.”