Post 27 falls in 13 innings to Porter County in state opener

PLYMOUTH — After a somewhat lackluster performance in the regional semifinals, Plymouth Post 27’s coaching staff was hoping to see a spark from its players at state.
The Diamond Spyders delivered, going blow for blow with regional champ Porter County for 12 innings, but in the end they fell just a little short in a 5-4, 13-inning heartbreaker in the two teams’ American Legion State Tournament opener at Bill Nixon Field Thursday.
“We came to play tonight. I thought our last game before this we kind of weren’t in it. We hung tough and we battled. Unfortunately we were just a run short,” said Plymouth manager Will Hostrawser.
“Any time you get a long game like this, I thought we played pretty well overall. You’re always trying to execute on defense, and it seems like we had pretty good pitching tonight… They made a few extra plays there at the end, and we didn’t.”
J.R. Frederick opened up the top of the 13th with a single into right, and Zach Jenks reached on a catching error at first, which allowed he and Frederick to reach second and third with none out. A foul out gave Post 94/ 170 its first out of the inning, but Michael Brosseau’s sacrifice fly to center scored Frederick. Jenks was ruled out at second for not tagging up on the play, and Plymouth’s coaching staff appealed Frederick’s game-scoring run, but it was determined that since he crossed the plate before the force out at second, the run counted.
Post 27 three hitter Tanner Andrews led off the bottom of the inning with a single down the third base line to put the tying run on, but Brody Andrews couldn’t get his bunt down and ultimately fanned, Porter County closer Robert Humphreys notched a second straight strikeout against Eric Knepper, and Wally Dickman popped out to first to close out the game.
“As far as that play goes, my appeal was the play never ended,” said Hostrawser of the controversial game-winner. “We caught the ball, we threw it in, the pitcher never got on the mound, he threw it back so in my mind that’s still a live ball. That’s a force out, and if he left early there’s no run. They’re telling me it’s a timing play — I think every force out is a timing play to be honest with you — but I questioned them; I questioned the home plate umpire and the base umpire, and they both had the same story. They’ll go and they’ll look at their rule book and I’ll look at mine, and we’ll see where it ends up. But we had many other opportunities to win that ball game. That call didn’t beat us.”
Sean Knepper gave Post 27 new life in the bottom of the ninth with a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer out to left to force extra innings. The Bremen grad’s heroic shot was his second hit of the game and only the second hit of the night for the Diamond Spyders up until that point.
“Sean had a great hit. We were down to our last strike. I’m the AD at LaVille, we host the sectional at Newton Park, and he had a game-winner against somebody in the top of the inning so I knew he had it in him,” Hostrawser said. “He was timed right up on that pitcher’s fastball, and he just connected. That gave us a nice spark, and our kids started believing.”
Porter County started fast with a run in the top of the first as John Olejniczak and Austin Cooley tallied back-to-back singles with two outs, and K.J. Zelenika scored Olejniczak with a double to deep center.
Plymouth responded with a run in the bottom of the inning as Knepper was hit by a pitch, moved over on James Hackworth’s sacrifice bunt, then scored on Tanner Andrews’ sac fly to right.
Porter County scored another run in the top of the third when Brosseau drew a lead-off walk which later came back to haunt the Spyders as Olejniczak scored him with a fielder’s choice grounder to short to put the visitors up 2-1.
Post 27 returned the favor in the fourth as Eric Knepper drew a leadoff walk and moved to second when Wally Dickman was hit by a pitch, and designated hitter Riley Cartwright scored him with a sac fly to center to re-knot the score at 2-all.
The tie didn’t last long, however, as Post 94/170 scratched out two more runs in the fifth. Brosseau coaxed another leadoff walk, stole second and was balked to third, and Cody Haver reached first on a dropped third strike as Latham held up Brosseau from third. One out later, Cooley was hit by a pitch to load the bases, setting the table for a two-run double from Zelenika that put Porter County up 4-2, a lead the visitors maintained until Sean Knepper’s late game heroics in the bottom of the ninth.
Porter County moves on to play Terre Haute Post 346 today at 4 p.m., while Plymouth drops down in the loser’s bracket to face Lafayette Post 11, which fell 11-1 to Princeton in Thursday’s tournament opener, in the late game at 7:30 p.m.
“We went 13 innings and had three hits. We’re going to have to liven up with our sticks so hopefully tomorrow will be a different story,” said Hostrawser.
“We faced (Lafayette) down at Terre Haute. They’re a good ball club every year… I know we beat them down in that Terre Haute Tournament, but you don’t get here by accident. They’re going to be a worthy opponent so we’ll have to bring our best games.”
• PORTER COUNTY POST 94/170 5, PLYMOUTH POST 27 4
At American Legion State Tournament at Bill Nixon Field
Porter County: 101 020 000 000 1 — 5 10 1
Plymouth: 100 100 002 000 0 — 4 3 4
Sean Liedtky, Tyler Niespodziany (L, 8); Jacob Post, John Olejniczak (7), Robert Humphreys (W, 10)
2B: K.J. Zelenika (PC) 2, Sean Knepper (P)
HR: Knepper (P)