The Post 95 Senior American Legion baseball team kicked things into full gear late in its game Wednesday at the 23rd District East Division Tournament.
But, unfortunately, early mistakes and missed opportunities left the Red Ninjas kicking themselves in the end, as a late comeback came up just short in a 7-5 season-ending loss to Olney at Effinghams Evergreen Hollow Park.
A pair of unsightly stats pretty much tell Post 95s story.
First, Vandalia stranded 13 runners on the basepaths.
Thats a lot of guys to leave on base in a nine-inning ballgame, Post 95 coach Steve Hosick said. Theres no question, our timely hits were not there tonight. And we hit some balls hard and they made some plays.
Three of those hard-hit balls resulted in costly double plays each of which probably should have been avoided.
The first DP enabled Olney to escape a bases-loaded, one-out situation unscathed in the first, as Trevor Summers strayed too far off second base on a liner to left by Jared Winters and was unable to beat the throw back in.
Post 95 committed a similar gaff in the second, as Luke Murfin was doubled off second after a long fly by Dallas Gray was tracked down.
The third double play was far less egregious but even more frustrating.
With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, a liner up the middle by Andy Hosick was snagged by Olney second baseman Kurt Mehl, who then appeared to drop the ball.
Mehl then scrambled and tossed the ball to second presumably hoping to double off Luke Murfin but Murfin beat the throw, prompting the second-base umpire to give a safe signal.
Mass confusion ensued.
Assuming the umpire had ruled no catch on the liner, Winters strayed off third base in an attempt to avoid a force at home.
By the time it became evident the umpire had ruled Mehl had caught the liner, it was too late. Winters was caught in-between third and home before being tagged out to end the inning.
On the diving play at second base, I see the ball on the ground and I hear nothing from the umpire I assume its still a live ball, Hosick said. He said he was signaling safe when the guy went back to second base to tag up.
When I see him signal safe, I assuming hes saying the balls down. At that point, Im thinking weve got a force play, because the bases were loaded.
That was a frustrating double play. When I talked to the umpire, he said he thought he saw the catch made and the kid was throwing the ball (to try to double Luke Murfin off second). We saw it different, but he wins.
Though infuriating, the play seemed inconsequential in the grand scheme at the time, as Olney extended a commanding 5-0 lead to 7-0 with a two-run rally in the sixth.
But that controversial double play would loom large after Vandalia (12-12) got back in the game with a two-run rally in the seventh and a three-run outburst in the eighth.
Vandalia finally broke through in the seventh when Winters was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Murfin followed with an RBI groundout.
Post 95 then served notice that it would not go quietly in the eighth, as Mitch Lewis led off with a walk, Andy Hosick followed with a single and Brenden Wasmuth cut Olneys lead to 7-3 with an RBI single.
Adam Hosick then plated two runs with his third hit of the night, with Wasmuth scoring the latter run thanks to a nifty head-first slide that enabled him to avoid the tag at the plate.
Post 95 was unable to push in Hosick from second with nobody out, however, and Olney took a two-run lead into the final inning.
Vandalia quickly put the tying runs on base with just one out, as Murfin doubled and Andrew Huber walked.
But after Andy Hosick went down swinging, Brenden Wasmuths bid for a game-tying double was tracked down in right, leaving Vandalia wondering what could have been.
We were still in that ballgame, Hosick said. Up to the last inning our guys didnt quit.
It is disappointing to come this far and still get beat. But we made some mistakes early in the game that cost us. Its hard to rebound sometimes.
Though Vandalias bid to advance to the championship game fell short, coach Hosick was proud of his teams strong finish.
Post 95 won four of its final six games, including two in a row after falling to the losers bracket in the district tournament.
I think the boys had a fun last 10 days of the season, Hosick said. Any time you win four of six its fun, even though the finish was disappointing.
Overall, the guys have had a fun summer, and thats why I do this.
Huber took the tough-luck loss despite another solid outing. The Hillsboro product struck out eight and allowed three earned runs in seven innings, but early Post 95 errors led to four unearned runs.
Hosick commended Huber an unexpected pickup due to the demise of Litchfields legion team for his dedication throughout the summer.
That kid hasnt missed a practice, Hosick said. He drove down from Hillsboro by himself and didnt know anybody. If I was going to give out an award for a guy whos been dedicated this summer, Id give it to him.
Adam Hosick finished the summer strong with his second straight three-hit game, finishing 3-for-5 with two RBIs, while Patoka products Murfin and Cody Wimberly added two hits apiece to Post 95s 10-hit effort.
Effingham went on to defeat Olney in the championship game.