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The Vandalia Jr. Legion club started last Friday’s game with a soft-tossing lefty.
It closed the game with a lanky, hard-throwing righty, and the contrasting styles had Salem fooled during an 8-5 win for Post 95.
“That was our plan at the beginning of the game,” said TK Kinkead of his pitching strategy. “After the rough first inning, Matt (Campbell) really settled down, and I kept on letting him go until Salem caught up to him.”
Campbell allowed three runs over the first three innings, but including the outs in that inning, he retired nine batters in a row with his slow-moving pitches.
The killer, however, wasn’t the deceitful speed; it was his accuracy. In that nine-hitter stretch, Campbell threw just two balls in 19 pitches, and by keeping the ball down in the strike zone, he induced five ground-ball outs.
After he tired in the sixth, Connor Beasley relieved him to finish out the game.
“(Campbell’s outing) opened the door for a lot of opportunities,” Kinkead said. “It not only does things for him, it gives the guys a lot of motivation.”
And that is, perhaps, why after Campbell retired the final three batters of the top of the third inning in just six pitches that Vandalia responded with six runs of its own in the bottom of the frame.
The first five hitters that inning all reached base and scored, with Beasley delivering a two-run single smack dab in the middle.
Jacob Rau brought home Beasley on a sacrifice fly, and Campbell and Jacob Rickman both scored after an error was committed during Quinn Wadkins’ at-bat.
Wadkins hit the ball sharply up the middle, and after the pitcher deflected it, the shortstop rushed a wild throw to first base.
Instead of ending the inning with that throw, it gave Vandalia another two-out opportunity, and Michael Wells took advantage of the miscue by rifling an RBI single to center to give Post 95 a 6-3 lead.
“These guys are capable of doing that,” Kinkead said of producing big innings offensively. “If they come to play and put the ball in play, they can do some things.”
The rally continued in the fourth.
With one out and facing a 2-0 count, Beasley expected – and received – a pitch in the strike zone, and, seemingly with ease, he lifted a solo home run over the 358-foot marker in center field.
“Connor really tagged that one good,” Kinkead said. “He knew a good pitch was coming, and he really got a hold of that one.”
Wadkins later drew a bases-loaded walk to bring home Vandalia’s final run. Salem, meanwhile, would score on an RBI single in the sixth and on a wild pitch in the seventh.
Beasley allowed the bases to load with one out remaining in the seventh, but he induced a ground ball to end the game.