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After a promising start in the first two days of the Mattoon Firecracker Classic left the Vandalia Sr. Legion squad with a 3-0 record, Post 95 had a tough time last Friday, falling to Lincoln, 5-2, and Shelby County, 7-3, to miss out on the championship round.
After the tournament, Vandalia’s record stood at 12-8.
CHARLESTON – All that was needed to win the game was a flyball to the outfield or a simple base hit.
But Mitch Wolff wasn’t taking any chances.
Coming to bat with one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning against Funkhouser, Ind., last Friday, Wolff smashed a deep flyball over the outfielders to give Post 95 a walk-off 2-1 victory in the Mattoon Firecracker Classic.
“Our guys just battled that seventh inning,” said coach Andy Rincker. “Dathan (Berning) had a huge stolen base, and I told Mitch, ‘All we need is a flyball to the outfield.’
“He was nice and patient to get a pitch he could do damage with,” he said.
The inning started with Berning getting aboard on an error and stealing second.
Earlier in the game, Post 95 runners had been picked off once and thrown out twice trying to take an extra base, but Rincker said sending Berning was a no-brainer.
“Nope,” Rincker said when asked if he considered playing conservatively. “We’re going to get thrown out sometimes, but we are going to keep forcing the issue and make the opponent make plays.
“We have to force the issue and take extra bases to beat good teams,” he said. “I can live with getting thrown out, as long as we are being aggressive.”
Raustin Zahradka then singled to finish the first three games going 8-for-12, and Dylan Carr was intentionally walked to load the bases for Wolff, who drove the third pitch of his at-bat to right-center field.
His hit preserved a three-hitter for Dalton Goldsmith, who wasn’t necessarily overpowering in striking out just one batter.
“He threw a ton of strikes and did a good job of changing speeds,” Rincker said. “And give their pitcher credit, because he threw a heck of a ball game.”
Post 95 had nine hits in the game, but stranded seven runners on base.
Also a big help to Goldsmith was the defense, which committed no errors behind him and made even the difficult plays look routine.
Carr made two diving catches in right field in the seventh inning, and made three other catches earlier in the game.
In the first inning, a line drive bounced off of Goldsmith’s knee, but Ian Murrell recovered the ball at third and his throw beat the runner to first base. The play proved to save a run, as the next three Funkhouser players reached base.
The game would be deadlocked at zero until the sixth inning, when each team got on the board.
In the top of the frame, Funkhouser’s Alec Werry doubled to open the inning, and Post 8 then used small ball to get him home.
Charlie Grief laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Werry to third, and a sacrifice fly to right scored the run.
Carr then led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and Post 95 secured its run in basically the same fashion as Post 8.
Wolff followed with a sac bunt, and Murrell then reached on an error to put runners at the corners. Kyle Bloemker would hit a sac fly to center to bring home Carr.
Thursday, June 28
WP: Goldsmith; 7 IP, 1 K, 1 ER, 3 H, 0 BB, 1 HBP
Post 95: Wolff, 2-for-3, RBI, sac bunt; Zahradka, 2-for-4; Carr, 2-for-3, run, BB; Tyler Herpstreith, 2-for-2, HBP; Bloemker, 1-for-2, RBI, sac fly; Berning, run, SB; Seth Lohman, sac bunt; Murrell, HBP; Tyler Pryor, HBP.
MATTOON – Robinson’s left fielder probably couldn’t wait for last Thursday’s game against Vandalia to be finished.
In both the first and second innings, Post 95’s Raustin Zahradka lifted a double over the left fielder’s head, including what would prove to be the game winner, in a 3-1 win on day two of the Mattoon Firecracker Classic.
He would finish up his day offensively by driving home an insurance run in the seventh inning to preserve Ian Murrell’s complete-game three-hitter.
“He’s swinging the bat well and putting a good swing on every pitch,” said coach Andy Rincker. “We talked about not giving at-bats away, and he doesn’t get cheated or give at-bats away.
“Any time you can tack on an insurance run, it’s a big deal,” he said. “Ian was really good today and we only needed two runs, but a third sure makes it easier when you’re sitting in the dugout.”
But without strong play from the defense, Murrell’s gem may have been wasted.
After an inning-opening walk in the fourth, Murrell depended on his defenders to get him out of the inning.
Tyler Herpstreith, who typically plays second base, made two catches in left field – including a diving catch – and second baseman Tyler Pryor made a leaping catch for the third out.
Two innings before, Dylan Carr put out a runner at first base from right field, and the defense converted three fielder’s choices in the final two innings.
“I thought our defense really stepped up,” Rincker said. “We have some guys playing in places they haven’t really played in the past, and I’m really proud of them.”
Robinson struck first offensively, using small ball in the top of the first inning to produce its lone run.
Leadoff batter B.J. Ramsey was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a balk. He was then sacrificed to third and scored on a fielder’s choice to short.
Post 95 appeared poised to get on the board in the bottom of the frame, loading the bases on Zahradka’s double, Carr’s walk and Bloemker being hit by a pitch.
Herpstreith fought valiantly at the plate to try to drive home a run, fouling off five pitches before striking out to end the inning.
But the offense continued putting runners on in the second, with Seth Lohman leading off the inning being hit by a pitch. He would be caught stealing soon after, but Dalton Goldsmith walked and Pryor reached on an error to get a runner in scoring position.
Dathan Berning advanced Goldsmith to third and reached first when he bounced into a fielder’s choice for the second out of the inning, but Zahradka then brought both of them home with his second double.
“I told Dathan that if there is a ball in the gap, you have to score,” Rincker said. “There was two outs, so on the crack of the bat, he was gone.”
Both offenses would quiet down through the middle innings, with the teams combining for just five hits over the next three innings. Included was Murrell striking out the side in the third.
In need of an insurance run in the sixth, it didn’t appear that Vandalia was going to get it, as the first two batters were retired after six pitches from a side-arming reliever.
Pryor was hit by a pitch and Berning walked in the next two at-bats, however, giving Zahradka another chance to help his team.
He delivered a sharp single to left to do just that, and Murrell then closed his start by striking out the final batter on four pitches.
Thursday, June 28
WP: Murrell; 7 IP, 5 K, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, 1 Balk
Post 95: Zahradka, 3-for-4, 2 2B, 3 RBI; Berning, 1-for-3, run, BB; Kyle Bloemker, 1-for-2, HBP; Murrell, 1-for-3; Mitch Wolff, 1-for-2; Pryor, run, HBP; Goldsmith, run, BB; Carr, BB; Herpstreith, BB; Seth Lohman, HBP.
Post 95 opened the Firecracker Classic in unconventional fashion last Wednesday.
Vandalia’s Derek Harmeier tossed a shutout despite scattering nine hits, and two first-inning runs proved to be enough for Post 95 in a 2-0 win against Effingham, the eventual tournament runner-up.
Harmeier allowed a base runner in all but one inning, and Effingham had a runner in scoring position four times but could not score. For the game, Effingham was 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position, including three strikeouts.
Raustin Zahradka tripled in the second at-bat of the game, and he scored when Dylan Carr singled. Kyle Bloemker would bring home Carr on a fielder’s choice.
Wednesday, June 27
WP: Harmeier; 7 IP, 6 K, 0 R, 9 H, 0 BB
Post 95: Zahradka, 3-for-4, 3B, run, SB; Carr, 1-for-3, RBI, run, BB; Bloemker, RBI, BB; Harmeier, 1-for-3; Mitch Wolff, 1-for-4; Seth Lohman, 2 BB, SB; Ian Murrell, BB.