Post 284's Season Ends In Tough Loss
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Jul 21, 2014, 09:12
CJ Henderson scores the first of nine runs for the Pirates during the season-ending loss.
CHESTERFIELD — The Post 284 Pirates were on the brink of surviving their second-consecutive elimination game during the American Legion District 11 playoff tournament. They were just six outs away from having clinched a berth into the championship round, needing just 20 more innings of winning baseball to keep their state championship dreams alive.
Stuck in a deadlocked 8-8 tie in the 7th inning, Devin Baber lined a lead-off single down the left field line to give his team a chance to take the lead over South Richmond Post 137. Cory Allgood immediately sacrificed Baber over to second base with a bunt, but Logan Mills was called out on strikes, leaving the Pirates just one more out to push across an important run.
Joe Petree entered the game as a reliever in the 4th inning and had fired three innings of one-run ball to that point. Stepping into the box, he remained calm in the pulse-pounding situation as he let the first pitch wisp across the outside corner for a strike. Then, on the very next delivery, Petree lined a fastball into the gap to send in the go-ahead run.
However, the excitement would not last and would instead turn into disappointment. Petree would struggle with control in the top of the 8th, allowing the tying run to score based in large part to a throwing error on a sacrifice bunt. With the game tied, Collin Fleischer entered in relief and immediately picked up a strikeout and needed just one more out to get out of the jam.
But Post 137's Luke Tyree had other ideas, sending Fleischer's first pitch over the right field wall for a grand slam which opened up a four-run lead. While the Pirates would get over the initial shock with Zach Harris' relief stint and were able to start a mini rally in the 9th, the damage was too much to overcome.
A season which never truly got on track reached its end in 13-9 loss to Post 137 with four huge errors taking the lead-role in the defeat.
"We've had a lot of injuries and even today we had a player scratched right before the first pitch," Pirates manager Gilbert Baber said after the game. "We killed ourselves with errors on too many routine plays."
Take away the four errors and the game may still be going on with the difficulty each team had in keeping the leads. The Pirates did not struggle to string together hits at the plate — something which was a problem earlier this season — but faulty defense truly hurt.
Eliminate the error on a sacrifice bunt in the 7th inning and Fleischer's strikeout of Keith Roberts would have ended the inning with the game still tied. However, another problem which plagued the Pirates was the lack of available arms.
Placed into a tournament which only rewards the teams that win and a single loss could cripple a team and that's what happened to the Pirates. In their opening playoff win, the Pirates did not need to burn through much of their pitching staff in a tidy win over their Colonial Heights rivals.
But in the loss the very next night — if they had won they would have needed just one more win to qualify for the finals — they needed multiple arms. Then, add in Nathan Eaton's one-game ban following his ejection and the number of arms available disappeared. It's what made the biggest difference between the Pirates and the South Richmond team which has now won three-straight elimination games.
"That was definitely the demise of our team," Baber said. "We didn't know who we were going to pitch. We take Nathan off the board, (Corey) Anderson was scratched right before the game and Corey Johnston had the back and shoulder problem. That's three quality pitchers right there. A team can only take so many hits."
Although the season did not end with the Pirates overcoming their obstacles, it was a successful transitional campaign. No one expected a roster filled out with state champions from last year's junior team would breeze through the schedule and they didn't.
Over the course of the season, the Pirates took their lumps, but still held the valued No. 2 seed upon entering the postseason. It was a testament to the way Baber managed a team which so often played without many key players. By inserting so much of his roster into lineups to gain experience, it allowed his team to have success while missing much of their offense.
Collin Fleischer's hot-hitting couldn't help the Pirates stave off elimination
It's why even though it hurt to be so close and not be able to reach their goal of playing for a state title, the season had its moments which will make for a better future in the coming year.
"We're a much more improved Pirates team from last year, so you have to start somewhere," Baber said of the growth. "You can't expect to come up from the juniors to the seniors and walk through it. These programs are established for a reason."
And that is where the Post 284 Pirates' program is headed. No longer an afterthought within its own community, the Pirates have shown they can not only compete, but excel at the highest level. With another year of experience and new up-and-comers at the ready, the Pirates and Baber have a chance to solidify a winning tradition in the coming year.