SPARTA — Baseball can be thrilling. It can also be frustrating. Thursday night, it was the latter for the Ashley American Legion Post 518 baseball team.
Ashley fought through adversity all through the game to close within a run, but a ninth-inning rally fell short, and Marysville’s Union Post 79 A earned its way to a title shot following a 5-4 victory over Post 518 in the 2011 Ohio American Legion District 6 Tournament at Highland Community Park in Sparta.
“We were on a high after the first two days, but we can into two good teams right in a row,” Ashley coach Ron Waterwash said. “We had to do a few things yesterday with kids out on college orientations, but we not making any excuses. We just ran into two good teams.”
Ashley (12-13) started things by getting out of a first-inning jam, then scored the opening run when Joe Curran reached on a one-out error, took second on a wild pitch, and came home on a single up the middle by Sean Leonard.
Adam Collier then singled through the right side to load the bases, but a pair of strikeouts ended what might have been a promising inning.
Marysville (24-11) took full advantage in the second, loading the bases with two out and getting a base-clearing three-run double from Sean Fleming that gave the 79ers the lead, as it turned out, for good. Fleming would score afterward on an RBI single by Wes Fauver.
“Right off the bat we scored a run, but we left three on, but they came up in the next inning in the same boat,” Waterwash said. “They hadn’t scored any, but they got a three-run double, and now we’re in a dog fight with a pretty good team.”
Stranded runners stymied Post 518 all day. Ashley left 12 runners on base, including three in the first and three more in the ninth. Ashley also left two runners stranded in both the sixth and seventh innings.
“A couple more timely hits and we win going away,” Waterwash said. “We left a bunch of guys on.”
On the mound, Collier was roughed up early, but was strong all the way through. The Jonathan Alder grad took the tough loss but went the distance, throwing an unheard of 174 pitches in the game, including 106 for strikes.
Collier gave up five runs on eight hits with six walks and one hit batter, but struck out 11 to keep Post 518 in the game.
“You can’t say enough about Adam Collier and his future as a pitcher,” Waterwash said. “He’s a bulldog out there. He walked more than he usually does but he struck out 11 today. He refused to come out. He’s that kind of a kid — he’s so competitive.”
Ashley got a run back in the bottom of the second when Drew Martindale walked, stole second, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a one-out grounder from Kenny McCambridge.
Marysville swiped that run back in the fourth when Fleming knocked in Jake Tharp with a one-out infield single, but Collier and the defense held the 79ers scoreless the rest of the way.
Ashley pulled within a run in the sixth, all with two out. Chad Townley popped a single down the right field line, Martindale reached on a fielding error and Kyle Whetro singled to load the bases. McCambridge then hit a single down the third base line to score both Townley and Martindale.
Joe Curran then rapped a base hit to left, but Whetro was gunned down at the plate for the final out of the inning.
In the ninth, Curran reached on an error and Jimmy Waterwash grounded into a fielder’s choice, but the throw from the Marysville pitcher got away and both runners were safe on the second error. Leonard then sacrificed both runners ahead, and Collier was intentionally walked to load the bases.
But a grounder back to the pitcher retired Curran at the plate, and pinch-hitter Blake Hampshire grounded to second to end Ashley’s tournament run.
Leonard had three singles and an RBI while Curran and Collier added two hits apiece. McCambridge finished with one single and three RBIs, while Veach, Townley, Martindale and Whetro added one single apiece.
Fleming led Marysville, going 4 for 5 with a double, three singles and four RBIs. Anderson Hasting got the win, going eight-plus innings and allowing just one earned run while striking out six. Kyle Nelson worked out of the ninth-inning jam to earn the save.
Ashley still had one remaining game, that at 6 p.m. tonight against Dublin Coffman Elite at Oxford Township Park, but Waterwash is already looking to next season.
Post 518 has just five returning players, and is in need of good young talent.
“We’ve got a big recruiting season ahead of us, so it’s official: Post 518 in Ashley, Ohio is now looking for players,” Waterwash said. “We had a bunch of young kids we stuck with for three years, but we only have about five kids coming back and we’re ready to move on. We’re looking for good players interested in playing a good summer of baseball.”