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Vandalia’s Sr. Legion team rebounded from its tough ouster at the Mattoon Firecracker Classic with a pair of wins over the weekend.
Now, the focus will be on taking that momentum into the district tournament, which begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday in Vandalia.
“If we keep playing the way we are playing, I really think that we are capable of beating anybody,” said coach Andy Rincker of his 14-9 squad. “We are at least six deep on the mound, but it’s all going to come down to how we swing the bats.”
He compared the district tournament to the Firecracker Classic, explaining that in the first three games at Mattoon, Vandalia won because it combined strong pitching and hitting, but in the last two games, Vandalia lost because it didn’t take advantage of its base runners.
Vandalia's first game is on Saturday at 7 p.m. About 15 minutes prior to the start, there will be a short program to honor veterans.
If Post 95 wins game one, it will play on Sunday at 8 p.m. If it loses, it will play Sunday at noon.
The tournament runs all day on Sunday and on Monday afternoon, and if necessary, a double-elimination championship game will be on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Over the weekend, Post 95 had a total of 25 hits and 17 runs in a 13-1 win against Bridgeport on Saturday and a 4-2 win against Pinckneyville on Sunday, and that is exactly what Vandalia will need at Districts to be successful.
It was the type of game where one small thing was going to make the difference.
It appeared that Vandalia got that break, when in the sixth inning, Mitch Wolff was able to advance to second on a walk, because Pinckneyville’s catcher didn’t chase after a passed ball.
Wolff was put out in a rundown one at-bat later, but Post 95 still persevered, posting three runs in the inning on the way to a 4-2 victory.
“Our guys have shown resilience all year,” said coach Andy Rincker. “It was nice to see us take care of business, not let that bother us and score some runs.”
Brady Huber had his second double of the game to drive in the first run in the sixth, and Raustin Zahradka followed with an RBI single.
The hit extended Zahradka's hitting streak to 12 games. He is batting .555 during that stretch, with 25 hits in 45 at-bats. For the season, he has hit .444, playing in every game.
Seth Lohman singled to plate another run, and Dathan Berning, who was 3-for-5 in the game, singled and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the seventh.
“I thought the first team that made a mistake would lose the ball game,” Rincker said. “We had an opportunity, they made a mistake and we capitalized.”
Berning is 10-for-16 in the past four games for .625 average. He is hitting .348 for the season.
It was only a matter of time for Post 95 to get on the board, as Vandalia had at least one base runner in every inning, but only one runner got into scoring position in the first five innings.
Dylan Bone, however, was keeping Pinckneyville at bay, allowing just two hits over the first five innings of his complete-game effort.
His biggest mistake of the day came to the leadoff batter in the of the sixth, as he left a pitch up for a Pinckneyville home run, but he would retire the next nine batters, before allowing a double and another run in the ninth.
“He’s pitched like that, outside of one start, all year,” Rincker said. “He throws a lot of strikes and throws the ball pretty hard.”
Bone is 4-1 on the season.
Sunday, July 8
WP: Bone (4-1); 9 IP, 4 K, 2 ER, 5 H, 0 BB
Post 95: Huber, 3-for-4, 2 2B, RBI, run; Berning, 3-for-5, run; Lohman, 2-for-4, RBI, SB; Zahradka, 1-for-4, RBI, run; Bone, 1-for-4, run; Dylan Carr, run; Blaine Scholes, 2 BB; Wolff, BB.
Deciding to shorten the day to one nine-inning game wasn’t enough for Post 95 on Saturday.
Originally scheduled as a doubleheader with Bridgeport, the teams decided to play one nine-inning game to try to beat temperatures that soared past 100 degrees, but Vandalia’s offense had a different idea.
The red-hot hitters pounded out 13 runs to run-rule Bridgeport after seven innings in a 13-1 triumph.
Dathan Berning led the charge, going 4-for-4, with four RBI, three runs and two steals to back up a complete game from Ian Murrell.
“He is seeing the ball well and seeing the whole field,” said coach Andy Rincker of Berning. “Last week, he was pull-happy, but this weekend he was using the whole field.”
Raustin Zahradka, Dylan Bone and Mitch Wolff each had two hits. Combined they scored four times and drove home two runs.
Berning led off the bottom of the first with a walk, and stole second before scoring on a single from Bone.
Eleven Post 95 players scored in the second and third innings, with the biggest blow coming on a three-run double from Brady Huber in the third.
Bridgeport hit a solo home run in the sixth to get on the board, but Murrell was dominant from the mound, striking out eight and allowing just six hits to pick up his fourth win of the season.
Saturday, July 7
WP: Murrell (4-1); 7 IP, 8 K, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 2 HBP
Post 95: Berning, 4-for-4, 2B, 4 RBI, 3 runs, 2 SB, BB; Zahradka, 2-for-4, 2B, 2 runs; Bone, 2-for-3, RBI, run, HBP; Wolff, 2-for-4, 2B, RBI, run, HBP; Cy Perfetti, 1-for-4, RBI, 2 runs, BB; Tyler Herpstreith, 1-for-3, 2 runs; Seth Lohman, 1-for-4, RBI, run; Dylan Carr, sac bunt, run; Blaine Scholes, BB.
With ace Derek Harmeier on the mound and two early runs, it appeared that Vandalia had a good chance of taking the victory against the I-70 Thunder last Thursday.
But then the sixth inning happened.
Three Vandalia errors contributed to a six-run inning for the Thunder, who tied the game an inning before and added two more runs in the ninth inning of 10-2 win.
Post 95 led off the bottom of the second with singles from Brady Huber and Raustin Zahradka.
Both would score, with Huber coming home on a fielder’s choice from Dylan Carr and Zahradka scoring on an error.
Vandalia, however, would get only three more runners into scoring position the rest of the game.
I-70 got its first run in fifth, when a runner reached on an error and the next batter walked to set up a two-run double.
Harmeier allowed eights runs over six innings, but only two were earned, those coming after the leadoff batter in the sixth reached on a passed ball and the next batter tripled.
He is 5-2 on the season.
Thursday, July 5
I-70 Thunder 10
LP: Harmeier (5-2); 6 IP, 5 K, 8 R, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB
Post 95: Dathan Berning, 2-for-4; Huber, 1-for-3, run; Zahradka, 1-for-3, run; Dylan Bone, 1-for-3, BB; Cy Perfetti, 1-for-3, BB; Mitch Wolff, 1-for-4; Carr, RBI; Ian Murrell, BB; Seth Lohman, BB.