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EFFINGHAM – It was Colin Ledbetter’s weakest hit of the night, but a hard-charging Zach Schaal made sure that it didn’t matter.
Ledbetter’s weak bases-loaded grounder in the bottom of the eighth inning last Friday ordinarily wouldn’t have given Vandalia the victory, but Schaal slid into home at the same time the ball arrived, flustering the catcher, who couldn’t come up with the catch to give Post 95 a 7-6 win in the semifinals of the Jr. Legion District Tournament.
“I was really nervous, but I knew I had to win it for my team,” Ledbetter said. “I was just trying to put it in play, and that’s what I did.”
The shortstop was unable to field the ball cleanly, but his throw still narrowly beat Schaal to the plate.
But the wild confusion of Schaal and the throw reaching the plate at the same time allowed the ball to scoot away and advance Post 95 to the East Division title game.
“All I was waiting for was a ball in the dirt or for Colin to put the ball in play to get me home,” Schaal said. “I had a good jump, and luckily, I saw where the catcher’s leg was, so I could try to knock the ball out any way I could.”
The walk-off was the second comeback of the game for Vandalia, which had led 4-1 after three innings.
Teutopolis, however, added a run in the fourth and three more in fifth to take a lead. An additional run in the top of the seventh put Vandalia behind by two.
“We had kids starting to get mad in the dugout about plays, so we had to remind each other that there was a lot of baseball left to play,” Riedle said.
Nate Ketchem drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the seventh inning, and he advanced to third on a single by Ledbetter, who got to second base on the throw to third.
Collin Nestleroad bounced into a fielder’s choice to bring home Ketchem, and during the next at-bat, Ledbetter scored the tying run on a wild pitch.
“He started trotting back to third, but then everyone yelled, ‘Go,’ so he took off sprinting,” Riedle said. “It’s probably a good thing that he is one of the fastest guys on the team.”
T-Town had three base runners in the top of the eighth, but none of them got past second base.
Dalton Crisman, Schaal and Ryne Dangbar led off the bottom of the frame with singles, with Crisman getting thrown out at the plate on an aggressive base running play.
Ketchem was intentionally walked to set up the double play prior to Ledbetter reaching on the fielder’s choice.
“It’s a huge win for our confidence, and it’s always nice to beat a team like T-Town, especially in postseason baseball,” Riedle said.
Teutopolis started strong, coupling a single and a double in the top of the first inning to score a run off of Schaal, Post 95’s ace.
Vandalia was held scoreless until the third, when Jake Bowen ripped a standup triple to right-center field to score Ledbetter and Nestleroad, and Tylor Knisley followed with an RBI single.
In the fourth, Ledbetter roped an RBI triple of his own to nearly the same spot.
“Bowen, I know he can crush it like that,” Riedle said. “But I love to see Ledbetter do that, because if your leadoff hitter can set the table by hitting it over the right fielder’s head, then that opens up the game.”
T-Town took a lead in the fifth, scoring three times on four hits and an error.
That would be the last inning Schaal would pitch, but he did well to limit the damage, leaving the bases loaded by striking out the last two batters of the inning.
“He expects to throw a complete game, allowing just one or two runs,” Riedle said. “He was mad about that fifth inning, but earlier in the year, our pitchers would have allowed more runs in that situation.
“Instead, he ended it with two strikeouts.”
Bowen came on in relief to pick up the win after three innings pitched. He struck out one, and allowed an unearned run on three hits and a walk.
WP: Bowen; 3 IP, 1 K
LP: Runge; 1/3 IP, 0 K
Post 95: Ledbetter, 3-for-5, 3B, RBI, 2 runs; Schaal, 2-for-3, 2 runs, BB; Crisman, 2-for-4,; Bowen, 1-for-3, 3B, 2 RBI, run, sac fly; Nestleroad, 1-for-4, RBI, run; Knisley, 1-for-4, RBI; Smith, 1-for-4, 2B; Dangbar, 1-for-4; Ketchem, run, 2 BB.