After playing the waiting game, the Union Post 297 Freshman Legion team won the baseball game.
Union (24-7-2) got a four-hit shutout from three different pitchers as it defeated Park Hills Post 39 in the opening round of the Missouri Freshman Legion State Tournament at Jackson’s Whitey Herzog Stadium, 2-0.
“We knew it would be a good game,” Post 297 Manager Ryan Bailey said. “They beat a good team which had beaten us three times, Festus Red. They’ve beaten some good teams in that area. We had some good pitching on the mound. We had some good defense and made some plays. We left some opportunities on the bases and we’ll have to clean that up. Overall, it was a pretty good first game and it was nice to get a win.”
The teams had to wait 2 1/2 hours from the planned start time due to a cloudburst which rendered the field unplayable following the tournament’s first game (Ballwin Post 611 defeated Cape Girardeau Post 63).
“We were ready to play baseball today,” Bailey said. “They were excited to be out here. They seemed to come out and be into the game. Credit to them, they came down here wanting to play and win a baseball game and they did it. It was a nice little delay. We had a chance to sit there and go into a shell, but they came out ready to play and did it.”
Coleton Anderson, Alex Kuelker and Dalton Voss combined as Bailey worked to limit his pitchers and keep them eligible to pitch later in the tournament.
Anderson threw 40 pitches while Kuelker fired 43 and Voss used 20 pitches. Voss was eligible to come back Thursday in the second round against Ballwin Post 611. Both Anderson and Kuelker were required to miss one day. Had they reached 46 pitches, they wouldn’t have been eligible to pitch again until Saturday.
“If you don’t go 0-2, you’re going to play a game on Friday,” Bailey said. “We’ll have at least two of our four top pitchers available in Coleton and Alex. They’ll be available Friday. Whether it will be a game to go to the state championship or a game to stay alive, it will be nice to know we have two guys who have pitched into the 90s this year in pitch count and can throw strikes available.”
Anderson allowed two hits and two walks over his three innings. He struck out a pair. He was credited with the win.
Kuelker followed by allowing one hit and one walk over three innings. He also struck out a pair.
Voss earned the save, going one inning while allowing one hit and a hit batter. He recorded one strikeout.
“There were a couple of times where they had runners in scoring position,” Bailey said. “Every time, we made the plays and got some big strikeouts. We played good baseball. Our pitchers had a lot of balls in plays and made some good plays.”
Union’s pitchers also benefited from key defensive plays. Left fielder Ryan Ewald came up with a big play in the top of the first, throwing out Slade Schweiss at the plate with Colton Morrow applying the tag.
“There was a big play in the first inning when Ryan Ewald threw the runner out at home plate,” Bailey said. “There was a chance for them to go up 1-0 and that changes the whole complexion of the game, because we shut them out. That was one of the biggest plays of the game right there.”
Post 297 outhit Park Hills by an 8-4 margin and the Rebels made the only error of the game.
Offensively, Union struggled to push runs across the plate. Post 297 took the lead with a run in the bottom of the third and added an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth.
The run in the third came after Jayden Overschmidt tripled to left field. Overschmidt ran through a stop signal at second base and dove safely in to third. Conner Borgmann followed up with a single to center to plate Overschmidt.
In the sixth, Cooper Bailey led off with a single to left. He stole second and took third on a wild throw. Bailey was stuck there for two outs before Hayden Burke hit a grounder to the shortstop and Bailey scored on the play. The hit was ruled a single.
“That was huge,” Bailey said. “We led off with a hit and were able to steal second and got some heady baserunning to get to third. It was close, but Cooper usually is a pretty aggressive and smart baserunner. He’s not the fastest, but he’s smart. He got over there for us and with two outs, Hayden Burke was able to come through and just put it into play and hustled down to second. We had a chance where the other team didn’t play defense.”
For the game, Bailey and Burke each had two hits.
Overschmidt tripled while Borgmann, Anderson and Tanner Hall singled.
Borgmann drew Union’s lone walk.
Bailey stole two bases while Burke and Hall had one steal each.
Overschmidt and Bailey scored runs. Borgmann and Burke recorded RBIs.
Brendon Jenkins started for Post 39 and he went 3.2 innings, allowing one run on six hits and striking out seven.
Slade Schweiss was next and he went 2.1 innings, allowing an unearned run
Slade Schweiss, Dylan Holifield, Ty Schweiss and Brett Richardson each singled.
Michael Vance, Slade Schweiss and Holifield walked.
Jenkins was hit by a pitch. Slade Schweiss stole a base.
Park Hills lost an elimination game Thursday against Cape Girardeau Post 63. Cape Girardeau came back with a six-run rally in the seventh to send it to extra innings and then won in the ninth, 18-17.