It was the showdown many Ninth District Junior Legion observers had been waiting to see.
But the Ninth District Tournament winners’ bracket final between top-seeded Washington Post 218 and second-seeded Sullivan Post 18 Sunday wasn’t what most had expected. Post 218 blasted Sullivan in five innings, 11-1.
While Post 218 is in a good position in the tournament, needing one win to take the title, it’s still going to be a challenge according to Manager Kent Getsee.
“We’re not out of the woods just yet,” Getsee said. “The tournament picks back up on Thursday and all teams will have their pitchers reset, so it’ll be some great baseball for sure and we’re hoping to pick up one more win in Ninth District play.”
Washington (24-3) advanced to Thursday’s championship series and will play at home at 8:30 p.m.
Sullivan (16-4) takes on Rhineland Post 147 for the right to face Washington in the title series at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Washington is assured a spot in the Zone 1 Tournament by virtue of winning the regular season title. Sullivan advances as well if Washington wins the tournament title. Rhineland can only win by winning the district tournament, which would knock out Sullivan.
The Ninth District winner hosts Jefferson City and the District 2 champion in the Zone 1 Tournament.
In Sunday’s game, Washington opened by holding Sullivan off the board in the top of the first and then scoring seven times in the bottom of the inning.
Post 218 added four runs in the third before Sullivan pushed its run across the plate in the fourth inning.
Brandon Stahlman went the distance, allowing a run on four hits and one walk. He needed just 52 pitches to get through the five innings and added two strikeouts.
“Brandon Stahlman was incredible on the bump for us in this game,” Getsee said. “He attacked the Sullivan hitters and dispatched them over five innings with just 52 pitches. Brandon thinks things through and, along with Nick Hellmann behind the plate, made pitches in key spots and worked around any threats.”
Getsee said things got much easier after the bottom of the first.
“He pitched with a lead and forced Sullivan to make something happen rather than helping them and the end result was a complete game tournament victory, which we were thrilled to get as this tournament has some tough teams and the hardest games are still ahead of us,” Getsee said.
Getsee said the offense really came to play and this year’s team ranks up there with three previous state championship squads.
“Offensively, we were as tough of a hitting team as I’ve ever had,” Getsee said. “Our teams in 2005, 2015 and 2016 were some great hitting teams and these guys are right there with them.”
Post 218 made the offense run on six hits, six walks, two hit batters and one runner who reached on an error.
Bryce Mayer led the way with two hits. Stahlman, Joe Hackmann, Wil Heggemann and Hunter Coulter each had one hit.
Levi Weber drew three walks as the leadoff batter. Jack Czeschin, Luke Hendrickson and Coulter also walked.
“Levi Weber led us showing unreal plate discipline picking up three walks all with full counts and fouling multiple pitches off,” Getsee said.
Czeschin was hit by a pitch. On the bases, Coulter and Hendrickson stole one base apiece.
Bryce Mayer added a sacrifice bunt.
Weber, Czeschin and Coulter each scored twice. Mayer, Hackmann, Heggemann, Josh Garbs and Hendrickson scored once.
Mayer, Stahlman and Hackmann each drove in two runs. Czeschin and Heggemann drove in one run apiece.
“Bryce Mayer, Brandon Stahlman and Joe Hackmann picking two huge RBIs each and the majority of them with two outs,” Getsee said. “These guys are grinding at the plate and not giving away any at-bats and the totality of that on teams is what sets us apart.”
For Sullivan, Josh Earney started and took the loss. Over 2.2 innings, he allowed 10 runs (six earned) on five hits, five walks and a hit batter. He struck out one.
Josh Wiese pitched the last 1.1 innings and he gave up one run on one hit and a walk. He struck out one.
Andrew Branson doubled while Blayten Nolie, Collin Immekus and Braden Carey singled. Earney walked.
Branson scored the run while Nolie drove him in.
Ethan Kackley stole a base.