Washington Post 218 moved one step closer to defending its Missouri Freshman Legion state championship after beating Festus Post 253 Thursday in Hannibal, 5-3.

“The boys are having fun and winning ballgames right now,” said Post 218 Manager Joe Kopmann. “The boys are hitting the ball a lot harder now. Everyone is hitting the ball well and that should help us out for the rest of the tournament.”

The win put Washington (24-2-2) into the winner’s bracket final against Ballwin Post 611, which beat Sullivan Post 18 in the other winners’ bracket semifinal Thursday, 5-0.

“We’re going to pitch Brandon Stahlman,” Kopmann said. “He’s a workhorse, just like his brother. He was 5-0 in the regular season. He will be fine.”

Friday’s winner moves to Saturday’s championship series, slated to start at 3 p.m. If a second game is needed, it will be played Sunday at 1 p.m.

Other teams still alive in the tournament heading into Friday were Jackson, Sullivan, Hannibal and Festus.

Washington has seen both Festus and Ballwin before this season. Post 218 beat Ballwin in the opening game of the Washington Preseason Tournament, 8-1, and tied Festus in the second pool game of that event, 3-3 (time limit).

“They’ve really improved since the first time we saw them,” Kopmann said. “They shut out Sullivan yesterday and that’s the only shutout of the tournament so far. We’re glad we don’t have to face that pitcher. Their middle infield is very good. It might be the best in this tournament.”

In Thursday’s rematch against Festus, Washington broke a scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth inning with three runs. Post 218 added two more in the fifth.

Festus woke up in the sixth with two runs and added another in the top of the seventh before Washington ended it.

Bryce Mayer pitched 6.2 innings for Post 218 before he hit the pitch limit. He allowed three runs (one earned) on two hits and two walks. Mayer fanned three.

“Bryce did a good job,” Kopmann said. “He had one pitch on a full count that was hit for a triple and they scored. We settled down after that and finished it out.”

Louis Paule got the final out and earned a save, allowing a hit and a walk.

Offensively, Washington posted 11 hits in the game. Joe Hackmann doubled and singled. Mayer and Will Heggemann each had two singles.

Levi Weber, Stahlman, Nick Hellmann, Josh Garbs and Cody Linders recorded one hit each.

Weber, Hellmann and Linders drew walks and Stahlman sacrificed.

Washington had trouble implementing its running game with two runners thrown out stealing.

Hackmann scored two runs. John Volmert, Luke Hendrickson and Heggemann each scored once.

Weber drove in two runs. Hackmann and Heggemann had one RBI apiece.

“Cody Linders made three nice plays in the outfield to rob hitters,” Kopmann said.

Collin Reando pitched for Festus, allowing five runs (four earned) on 11 hits and three walks over six innings. He struck out three.

Connor Wilkinson doubled. Nolan Strafford and Collin Doyel singled.

Cayse Martin walked twice and Wyatt Daugherty walked once.

Cole Wagner and Martin each stole two bases. Reando and Daughtery stole one base apiece.

Wagner, Reando and Martin scored the runs. Wilkinson drove in two. Doyel had the other RBI.