Visiting Taylorville did absolutely everything it needed to do to get a win Tuesday.
But that didn’t make the Vandalia Post 95 Sr. American Legion baseball team’s first loss of the young season any easier to swallow.
Despite timely hitting, spectacular defense and stingy pitching by Taylorville throughout the first 8 1/2 innings, Post 95 had a golden opportunity to steal a win in the bottom of the ninth.
The Cardinals had just scored two runs to cut a three-run Taylorville lead to just one, and had the bases loaded with nobody out.
But, with a big assist from twilight conditions, reliever Dave Maziarz came in to strike out the next two batters before coaxing an infield popout that allowed Taylorville to escape with a 5-4 victory.
The frustrating finish was par for the course in a game filled with missed opportunities, leaving Post 95 wondering what could have been.
The Cardinals (1-1) wound up stranding 12 runners on the basepaths, a sharp contrast to Taylorville’s opportunistic offensive attack, as the visiting team scored each of its runs with two outs – taking advantage of Vandalia gaffs on two occasions.
Taylorville got on the board in the third without the aid of a hit, as a walk, a two-base error on a pickoff throw and a wild pitch staked Post 73 to a 1-0 lead.
Vandalia countered in the bottom of the frame, as Will Crain launched a long solo homer to right-center. But it was dj vu all over again for Post 95 in the top of the sixth, as Taylorville took the lead for good by scoring via a walk, an error and a wild pitch.
Post 73 extended its lead to 3-1 with back-to-back two-out doubles in the seventh, and that looked to be more than enough for starter Chris Waddell.
Waddell started tiring in the eighth, however, as Trevor Summers led off with a double, eventually scoring on a Ryan Thiele check-swing single.
The Cardinals were threatening for more, as they had runners on first and second with nobody out, but reliever Cody Unser coaxed a pair of groundouts, allowing Post 73 to escape the inning with a 3-2 lead.
Unser then delivered what appeared to be a knockout blow, as his two-out, two-run double in the top of the ninth gave Taylorville a commanding 5-2 lead.
Vandalia refused to go quietly, however, quickly loading the bases with nobody out, thanks to a Kyle Huber double and a pair of walks.
Summers followed with an RBI single – his fourth hit of the game – before a Cody Wimberly bases-loaded walk cut Taylorville’s lead to 5-4.
Maziarz fanned the next two batters he faced, however, and Clay Cain III popped out to first to end the game.
Post 95 banged out 11 hits, but it would have had even more if not for a pair of spectacular diving plays by Post 73 shortstop Mike Maziarz. Taylorville made the routine plays as well, finishing the contest with a donut in the errors column.
Summers finished 4-for-5 at the plate, including two doubles and an RBI. Thiele added three hits and an RBI in four at-bats, in addition to throwing out a couple runners attempting to steal.
Taylorville 001 001 102 – 5 8 0
Vandalia 001 000 012 – 4 11 2
WP – Waddell (7 1/3IP, 9H, 2BB, 4K, 2ER). LP – Murray (2IP, 1R, 0ER, 2H, 1BB, 1WP, 1K). Vandalia top hitters – Crain 1-3 (HR, BI, BB, SB), Hosick 1-4 (BB), Summers 4-5 (2 2B, BI), Wimberly (2 BB, BI), Thiele 3-4 (BI), Huber 1-4 (2B).
Last Tuesday’s Game
Vandalia 9, New Baden 6
Huber picked up the win by throwing six solid innings – recording 14 of Post 95’s 18 strikeouts during that span – and Wimberly had a three-run homer in the Cardinals’ season-opener.
Wasmuth added two hits and an RBI, while Crain had an RBI single.
Post 95’s scheduled doubleheader at Troy Saturday was rained out.