It was a debacle in every sense of the word.
Despite 16 strikeouts by Jared Winters, the Post 95 Senior American Legion baseball team fell into the loser’s bracket of the 23rd District East Division Tournament Saturday, as seven errors led to a 7-5 loss to Newton.
Not many teams would be able to bounce back from such a discouraging defeat.
But not many teams have dubbed themselves ‘The Red Ninjas.’
Since that forgettable loss, Post 95 has shown the fighting spirit of its new namesake, battling its way back through the loser’s bracket with a vengeance with a 12-6 pasting of Robinson Monday and a 13-3 seven-inning thrashing of Teutopolis Tuesday.
And though he is currently in New Mexico competing in a national rodeo competition, shortstop Will Crain deserves much of the credit for Post 95’s turnaround.
It was from the mind of Crain that Post 95’s new nickname originated following a tough loss earlier this season.
‘One of the guys said, ‘Let’s go with Red Ninjas,” Post 95 coach Steve Hosick said with a laugh. ‘Ninjas are tough mentally, so we’ve been going with it ever since.’
And thanks to its newfound resilience, Vandalia now has an opportunity to claim a district title, even though the road will be tough.
‘We’ve still got 27 innings of baseball to win this thing,’ Hosick said. ‘But the kids are excited. We’re going into some uncharted water in this tournament. I don’t know if we’ve been this deep in this thing.’
Fourth-seeded Post 95 must win Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. against Robinson to get a shot at top-seeded Effingham at 8 p.m.
If Vandalia can upend the host team it that game, it would meet Effingham again at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the championship.
It’ll be a tough row to hoe, no ques tion. But Hosick is confident his team can pull it off – and he’s not alone.
‘I’ve had two coaches now say to me that if we play ball we’re the team to beat,’ Hosick said.
Post 95 certainly did just that Tuesday against T-Town.
A two-out rally in the second staked Post 95 to a 4-0 lead, and Vandalia never looked back.
Adam Hosick got things going with an RBI single, and red-hot No. 3 hitter Trevor Summers followed with a bases-clearing double.
The Lake Land College sophomore-to-be was just getting started, as he added an RBI single in the fourth, a double in the sixth and an RBI single in the seventh.
The Vandalia native has nine hits and eight RBIs in his last 10 at-bats, with the only out coming on a line drive to center.
‘He’s smoking the ball,’ Hosick. ‘He’s coming up to me between at-bats and saying, ‘Well, what do you need, a single, double a home run? When a kid’s hitting like that, you know he’s in the zone a little bit.’
Led by Summers, Post 95’s torrid hitting had starter Luke Murfin staked to a 7-0 lead entering the bottom of the fifth.
But the Patoka junior-to-be encountered some control problems in that frame, as six walks cut Vandalia’s lead to 7-3 and brought the potential tying run to the plate.
Recent VCHS grad Brenden Wasmuth came into the game and induced an inning-ending flyout, however, and went to pitch 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, giving his team a huge boost in the process.
‘Earlier in the year, Brenden said we’ve got enough pitching, so he wasn’t going to worry about pitching,’ Hosick said. ‘But we got to a point tonight where Murf was a little frustrated with not getting a call here or there … him coming in and getting out of that inning was big. Then, of course, he shut them down (the rest of the way).’
Wasmuth’s teammates rewarded him by giving the recent VCHS grad an opportunity to avoid throwing the eighth and ninth innings.
A five-run rally in the sixth gave Post 95 a 10-run lead, and Wasmuth worked a scoreless seventh, as Post 95 won by the mercy rule.
Despite having to come back through the loser’s bracket, Post 95 should be in good shape pitching-wise for the rest of the tournament.
‘We’re going four games into this tournament now, and we still have (Andrew) Huber and Winters available to throw,’ Hosick said. ‘I think we’ve still got some good pitching left. That’s gonna be big (Wednesday).
‘The pitching’s been solid. When we cut down on the mistakes in the field, I think we’re gonna be OK.’
Wasmuth and Murfin wound up combining to throw a two-hitter. Murfin struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings of work, but 11 walks kept him from pitching the five innings necessary to qualify for a win.
Wasmuth struck out two and walked none, getting a key double play to escape a sixth-inning jam.
Adam Hosick added three hits in four at-bats to an 11-hit Post 95 attack.
Vandalia 12, Robinson 6
If there was any lingering frustration in Post 95’s collective minds from Saturday’s loss to Newton, it didn’t show.
Vandalia staved off elimination with authority, burying its opponent early with a combination of heavy hitting and atrocious Robinson defense.
After jumping out to a 1-0 lead in the first, Post 95 sent 10 men to the plate in the second during a six-run explosion that staked it to a comfortable 7-0 lead.
Robinson used three seeing-eye hits and a controversial call at the plate to get two of those runs back in the top of the third, but Vandalia delivered a knockout blow in the bottom of the frame, scoring four more runs to take an 11-2 lead.
Two-run doubles by Clay Cain and Summers keyed Vandalia’s second-inning rally, and Summers added an RBI single in the third – part of a perfect day at the plate.
Summers led a 15-hit assault by going 5-for-5 with three RBIs.
Winters added three hits in five at-bats, including an RBI single in the fourth that extended Post 95’s lead to 12-2.
Overshadowed in all the offensive exploits was another fine pitching outing by Huber. The Hillsboro product picked up the win by scattering five hits, striking out nine and issuing no walks over five innings.
Vandalia would have won by the 10-run mercy rule in the seventh if not for a diving catch down the left-field line by Robinson shortstop Drew Morecraft.
The play robbed Cody Wimberly of a game-ending RBI hit, but Wimberly enjoyed a 2-for-5 day, nonetheless, including a two-run single in the third. Cain, a fellow Patoka product, added two hits and two RBIs in four at-bats.
Newton 7, Vandalia 5
Winters struck out 16 on the mound and was 3-for-4 at the plate, but seven Post 95 errors trumped the Brownstown junior-to-be’s tremendous individual performance.
Winters scattered eight hits and walked four in a nine-inning, complete-game effort, but five unearned runs led to a tough-luck loss.
Kenin McCoy’s solo homer in the third broke up a 2-2 tie and gave Newton the lead for good. Newton added two unearned runs in the fifth and another two-run rally in the sixth proved to be the difference.
Justin Swingler picked up the win for Newton, scattering nine hits and allowing one earned run over seven innings.
In addition to his three hits, Winters had two RBIs. Wimberly added two hits in five at-bats, including a double and an RBI.