Legion Playoffs: Post 87 begins semifinal series with 11-3 victory
With a grueling second round series behind them, Post 87 began the semifinals of the Area III American Legion playoffs on a calmer note.
A six-run first inning set the tone for a much easier Saturday evening at Finch Field, as the HiToms cruised 11-3 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series with Mooresville.
“Every single game in that last series you were on pins and needles,” said Post 87 manager Rob Shore. “It was nice to be able and come out here and relax early.”
Post 87 made a crucial mistake in the initial frame by the Moors that hurt in a big way. With runners on first and second with two outs, Mooresville pitcher Jake Kaufman struck out Levi Gesell for what should have been the final out. But the pitch made its way by the catcher and to the backstop. Jared Stukbauer could not locate the ball immediately, allowing Colin Rosenbaum to sprint around for the game's first run. That little crack was all Post 87 needed in order to make it a huge inning.
After a walk, Ben Fischer drove in a run with an infield single. Ryan Kahny then tagged a single to left that pushed across two more runs to double the lead, 4-0. Avery Hodges poured a little more salt in the wound by delivering a two-RBI single to extend the margin to 6-0. Relief finally came for the Moors on a fielder's choice to end the inning.
“They had a tough first inning,” Shore said. “We hit the ball hard, they made some errors and then we had some hits. We compounded their errors with base hits, and anytime you can jump on a team early like that, it is really hard for the other team to get their mind back into it.”
With a big lead early on, Bryce Lance was able to relax on the mound and concentrate on hitting the zone. Making just his third appearance of the year, the left-handed hurler from Trinity High School tossed six innings with nine strikeouts on his stat line. He left with a 8-2 advantage.
In the bottom of the sixth the HiToms padded the lead with a three-spot.
A single from Ryan Hedrick and double by Zach McLean began the inning. Gesell's sacrifice fly to dead center scored Hedrick, with McLean reaching the plate on Fischer's RBI single. Fischer took second on a wild pitch, then touched the final two bases on a Kahny single.
Zach Saylor completed the remaining three innings on the hill for the HiToms.
Sports Editor Zach Kepley can be reached at 888-3631, or firstname.lastname@example.org.