PLYMOUTH — It was only Wednesday that Plymouth Post 27 received an invitation to fill in at regional for a Richmond Post 65 squad that was forced to withdraw from the American Legion state tournament.
After a lackluster finish at last week’s sectional, the Diamond Spyders hit their home field Friday hoping to parlay that new life in the tourney into a reversal of fortune. Instead, they received an all too familiar result at the hands of an old foe.
Bristol Post 143’s lineup racked up 15 hits — including a pair of homers in the second and fifth innings — on the way to 13 runs, and Jake Tucker pitched six solid innings backed up by an errorless defense as Bristol put their hosts away in seven, 13-3.
“They’re a state championship-caliber team, there’s no doubt about it. They’ve got a good pitching staff, they play good defense, they play the game hard,” said Plymouth coach Will Hostrawser. “They’re just a fun bunch of kids, and it’s going to take somebody really good to trip them up along the way.”
It was the sixth time the Spyders had faced Post 143 this season, and the sixth time they came up short. Bristol beat Plymouth twice in Terre Haute Tournament play at the start of the season and once more in the championship of Post 27’s own Patriot Tournament over Independence Day weekend, as well as two other times in non-tournament play headed into Friday’s regional game.
Post 27 will now face another familiar opponent in the losers bracket game at Bill Nixon Field today at 1 p.m. as the Spyders look for a reprisal versus a Highland Post 180 team that knocked them out of contention at last week’s sectional en route to a runner-up finish behind Bristol. Post 143 advances to play Kokomo Post 6 — a 5-4 winner over Highland in the regional opener Friday — in the winners’ bracket game at 10 a.m. today, meanwhile. The loser of today’s first game and the winner of the second game will play at 4 p.m. for the right to advance to Sunday. The championship is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday with another game to follow if necessary at the double elimination tourney.
“We’re going to face a Highland team tomorrow that we’re very competitive with so it should be a good ball game. We’ll see what tomorrow brings,” Hostrawser said. “Hopefully we’ll get another crack at Bristol. Kokomo is going to have their hands full with them. But, hey, once you get to this level that’s how it works. You’ve just got to play good baseball and move on.”
As lopsided as the final score was, it was actually Post 27 that struck first Friday, jumping out to an initial 2-0 lead in the top of the first.
Shay Hepler singled in the leadoff spot, was bunted over by Plymouth starting pitcher Jason Ferguson and reached third on Tanner Hampton’s line drive to left. Kyle Liedtky drove in Hepler with a looper into left center, and Nick Pritz batted in Hampton with a sac fly to deep center before Clayton Adamson flew out to right to retire the side.
But Bristol answered back with four hits for three runs in the bottom of the inning — highlighted by Dakota Simon’s two-run double all the way to the centerfield fence — to take a 3-2 lead, and tacked on four more runs over the next two innings. Post 27 didn’t score again until Ferguson’s one-out single to right scored Drew McDonald as the Spyders punished Tucker for a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth, but Bristol’s batters responded once more with three runs in the bottom half of the inning to push its lead out to 10-3. Post 143 scratched out another three in the bottom of the seventh, and pinch hitter Duncan Boone’s chopper through the five hole drove in closer Reece Misura for the walk-off win.
While Bristol’s batting order kept the hits coming, the visitors were also able to capitalize on five errors by the Plymouth defense as Post 143 plated three unearned runs for the night against a beleaguered Spyders staff of four different pitchers.
“I thought we started off there nice in the top of the first, came out pretty aggressive and scored two runs right away. We made some errors and against a good hitting ball club like that it’s going to cost you,” said Hostrawser.
“We put the ball in play tonight a little better than we have in a couple games recently, but they made plays. The one thing with this team that I’ve noticed is they do such a good job of communicating between each other. They don’t miss relays. They get the ball where it should be and then offensively they’re probably the best baserunning team that we’ve played all year as well. They hit balls deep to the gaps, they’re tagging, they’re taking advantage of all those little things that kids this age, a lot of them don’t get. They got it, so I’ve got to give them a lot of credit.”
While Plymouth’s ultimate goal is a regional championship and the chance to play in the American Legion State Finals in St. Leon next week, the Diamond Spyders are fortunate just to be at regional.
When Richmond was forced to withdraw, American Legion officials approached the rest of the field at Sectional 2 to see who might like to take Post 65’s place. No one stepped up, so the regional invitation was extended to Plymouth as the third-place finisher at Sectional 1.
Hostrawser said it’s a testament to his players’ commitment that they turned out to play Friday on just two days’ notice after thinking their season was over.
“Unfortunately in Legion baseball recently this type of thing has happened where teams can’t get kids, and I think it speaks to the quality of the type of program that we have that we turned uniforms in last week and brought closure to the season,” he said. “It’s just nice that we’ve got a lot of kids that want to play baseball and just spend those few extra days here playing together and see what happens. We were talking to them here before the game that it would be something if we just happened to sneak out of here to the state finals. That’d be alright.”
• BRISTOL POST 143 13,
PLYMOUTH POST 27 3 (7 inn.)
At Plymouth Regional
Plymouth: 200 010 0 — 3 6 5
Bristol: 322 030 3 — 13 15 0
Jake Tucker (W), Reece Misura (7); Jason Ferguson (L), Kyle Liedtky (4), Brayden Davidson (6), Spencer Maecroft (7).
2B: Evan Oblinger (B), Caleb Stayton (B), Dakota Simon (B)
HR: Nick Defreese (B), Cain Crowley (B).