There can be only one.
With the number of Ninth District Freshman teams going on to the state tournament this season trimmed down to one, winning the district tournament had an increased importance this season.
It was Union Post 297 (23-7-2) that accomplished that goal Tuesday at Pacific High School, defeating Hannibal Post 55 (12-6), 5-4, in the tournament final.
Post 297 had already won the regular season district title, but went 3-0 through the tournament to earn a berth in the Freshmen State Tournament in Jackson. Anything less than a tournament win would have ended Union’s season.
“It stinks to have to go home and do laundry now, but when you’re doing it after a win we’ll take it” Post 297 Manager Ryan Bailey said after rainy conditions earlier in the day moistened the infield dirt and made it more apt to stick to the team’s uniforms. “The boys played hard. They’re a good group of boys and to find a way to win this game show a lot about their character and their ability.”
The victory marks the first district tournament win for a Post 297 team in recent memory.
“It hits you quick when you realize that you’ve moved on to the next step,” Post 297’s Hayden Burke said. “It’s going to be cool.”
Union scored a run in the first and that was the game’s only run until Hannibal managed to tie the game in the top of the fifth.
Post 55 took a 4-1 lead in the top of the sixth, which Union knocked back down to a one-run advantage with two runs in the home half.
A sliding grab in center field by Collin Gerdel in the top of the seventh inning prevented Hannibal from scoring any insurance runs and set the stage for Union to come back and win it.
Post 297 utilized the squeeze play to push across both the tying and winning runs in the final frame.
Conner Borgmann was the winning pitcher in the contest, closing out the game in relief of Liam Hughes and Dalton Voss.
Hughes tossed the first four innings and gave up one run on five hits and four walks with two stikeouts.
Voss threw the next 1.1 innings and surrendered two runs on two hits and a strikeout.
In the final 1.2 innings, Borgmann allowed one unearned run on five hits and struck out one.
At the plate, Cooper Bailey went 2-3 with a double, a single, a stolen base and two runs batted in.
Coleton Anderson, Ryan Ewald, Borgmann, Luke Koch and Burke all singled.
Jayden Overschmidt, Burke, Anderson, Ewald and Borgmann scored the Union runs.
Overschmidt, Borgmann and Marshall Gebert drove in one run each.
Koch, Ewald and Borgmann all reached on walks.
Spencer Whetstone threw the complete game for Hannibal. He had previously pitched in relief against Union in Sunday’s winners’ bracket final.
“When we faced him in the championship semifinal, we had a 3-0 lead before he came in and we couldn’t do anything with him,” Ryan Bailey said. “We knew we’d see him tonight and he’s just tough for us to hit. We had a real hard time with him. When we were up, 1-0, it was just nerve-wracking because you knew what was going to happen. They were hitting the ball hard and had more hits than us and got that 4-1 lead.”
In 6.1 innings, Whetstone allowed four earned runs on seven hits and three walks, striking out five.
Post 297 stole five bases against Whetstone, some directly off a pickoff attempt. Anderson stole two bases. Burke, Ewald and Overschmidt each stole once.
“We had a good five-step play against him,” Overschmidt said. “That helps pretty well. It’s hard to get back on us. We’re a pretty quick team.”
Post 55 outhit Union, 12-7, in the contest. Four different players had multiple hits for Hannibal.
Tyler Hardy tripled and doubled with a walk, two RBIs and two runs scored.
Jack Schwartz and Chase Haner both doubled and singled.
Jackson Jung and Whetstone both singled twice. Jung drove in a run.
Keaton Pantaleo and Kameron Faust both singled.
Faust and Cayden Graham scored one run each.
Graham walked twice and Whetstone once.
Haner, Graham and Foust each stole a base.
The Freshmen State Tournament will be held July 10-14.