OTTAWA – Lima Legion Post 96 has had its share of missed opportunities this young baseball season.
Sunday’s semifinal game of the TAWA Classic tournament at Ottawa’s Memorial Park was a prime example of what first-year Post 96 coach Doug Waddle has endured.
Post 96 stranded seven base runners and committed five errors, en route to an 11-6 loss in extra innings (nine innings) to Adrian Post 275 in the TAWA semifinals.
Post 96 battled back from a 4-0 deficit after two innings and eventually forced extra innings with the scored tied at 6 after seven.
However, in the top of the ninth inning, Adrian scored five runs, four of those coming off a grand slam home run by Tyler Frank (3 for 5, 5 RBIs), to pull away for the victory.
Adrian (3-1) was scheduled to play Bucyrus in Sundays’ championship game. The results of that game were not made available to The Lima News by press time.
Adrian pounded 16 base hits off Post 96 pitching. Every batter in the Adrian lineup collected at least one hit.
Post 96 used a total of four pitchers on Sunday.
Nick Watkins (Lima Central Catholic) got the starting nod for Lima. Watkins worked four-plus innings before being lifted. Watkins gave up four runs on nine hits, while striking out three and hitting a batter. He threw a total of 86 pitches.
Tanner Koverman (Spencerville) took over on the mound for Post 96 in the fifth. Koverman did not allow a run in two innings of work.
Casey Mulcahy (Shawnee) came in to replace Koverman in the seventh. Mulcahy pitched 1 2/3 innings and did not allow a run. He struck out three and walked five.
Braden Goodwin (Allen East) worked the final inning for Post 96. Goodwin gave up the five runs.
“We scrapped and clawed and got back into the game,” Waddle said. “Nick Watkins gave us a gutty performance. …He’s been gone all week. We were a little worried about him. He came out and scattered some hits, but he kept us in the game. We went to Tanner (Koverman), who is sort of our spot guy. He got us to the seventh. We got the game tied in the seventh. Then Casey (Mulcahy) gave us two innings.
“Like I told the guys, the key to winning baseball games is pitching and defense, because you’re not going to hit every day. We pitched, but we didn’t play good defense, today. And that was obviously our bugaboo today. We made some errors in some key spots.”
Adam Purdy (Elida), Zach Bailey (Shawnee) and Doug Sanders (Bath) led Post 96 (4-9) at the plate, each recording two hits.
In all but two innings, Post 96 stranded at least one base runner. In the third, Post 96 had bases loaded with no outs, but could not score.
Adrian started Gage Lolley on the mound. Lolley pitched just three innings, before giving way to Caleb Ebeling. Lolley did not allow a run. He scattered four hits, while striking out two and walking one. He threw 39 pitches.
Ebeling was tabbed for six runs on three hits. He struck out two and walked four.
Post 96’s big inning was the fourth, when it scored five runs on just two hits. Ebeling walked three batters in the fourth. After five innings, Adrian led 6-5.
In the sixth, Purdy led off with a double to right. Three batters later, Sanders drove Purdy in with a single to center, knotting the game at 6.
In the top of the ninth, Adrian loaded the bases for Frank. Frank, who already had a triple and had hit the ball hard in his four previous trips to the plate, belted a shot to right for the grand slam.
“The wind was blowing to right (field), so I was trying to go to right field,” Frank said. “It was an elevated fastball. I obviously was trying to hit it hard and wasn’t trying to hit it out, but the wind took it out. …I got a little bit of help there.”
Sunday’s semifinal game for Adrian was just its fourth game of the season. Adrian coach Don Cappelletty said his team is starting to find its groove at the plate.
“We started out the first game (of the tournament) kind of slow. Since the first game, we’ve hit the ball better. The kids are relaxed and they’ve swung the bat really well.”
For Post 96, it’s all about getting back to the basics.
“This weekend we were pretty solid,” Waddle said. “I told the guys that we’ve been so focused to get better, offensively, that we need to do better on concentrating on defense. It’s that close-game thing again that we talked about yesterday. It just seems like we get into those ruts. So, we need to get better on defense as well.”