By MARK HAZELWOOD
It was the worst day to have ‘one of those days’ for the Sandusky Post 83 baseball team.
Facing a scenario of needing to beat Galion twice Sunday in the winner’s bracket finals at Heidelberg University, four errors at inopportune times led to a 8-6 loss.
Post 83 ends its season at 32-4 overall, falling short of it’s bid to 3-peat at the state tournament after losing a 6-4 lead in the sixth inning.
After a loss to Avon Lake Monday, Post 83 needed to win six consecutive games to win the district and had won four straight while averaging 12 runs per game, but only received half of that production on Sunday.
Post 83 was held hitless through the first four innings, but starting pitcher Matt Hamons (Malone/Willard) led off the fifth with a single and Cory Brown (Port Clinton) reached on an error to get things going.
Kyle Fluharty (Willard) hit into a fielder’s choice and Matt Gundlach (Ashland/Perkins) had an RBI single to make it a 3-1 deficit.
Mike Drake (Sandusky) reached on an error and Xavier Turner (Perkins) got the big hit Post 83 needed with a drive to right-center field. Turner went into third with a triple, but the throw sailed over third base and Turner scored for what was an apparent 5-3 lead.
However, on an appeal by Galion it was ruled Drake did not touch third base and he was ruled out, ending the inning with Post 83 leading 403. The momentum appeared to shift when Galion answered with a solo home run to tie the game at 4-4, but Post 83 added two more runs in the top of the sixth for a 6-4 lead.
Spencer Bryant (Perkins 2010) singled and Hamons followed with another single. Brown then drove in Bryant for a 5-4 lead and Fluharty drove in Hamons with a single to make it 6-4.
The fun ended there, however, as Hamons and Adam Manner (Bellevue) were victims of two errors in the bottom of the sixth that led to four unearned runs for an 8-6 deficit that proved to be the final margin.
On top of three hits, Hamons was the tough-luck loser in pitching 5 1/3 innings and allowing seven runs, just one of which was earned. He struck out 10 batters and walked four with five hits allowed.
Despite the bitter reality of not getting back to state, coach Ray Neill reflected on a run of two straight state titles and winning 32 of 36 games this season.
“We’ve had a great run and it was a very good summer,” he said. “The goal was to get back and try and defend our championship and see what happens.”
Post 83 made it to Sunday with wins over Ashland, 10-4 and Fremont, 17-5 Saturday.
In the win over Ashland (13-14) and it’s pitching staff pushed to the limit without a healthy Zak Esposito (Sandusky 2010), Brady Smith (Sandusky) and got an impressive outing.
Smith struck out 13 batters in 7 2⁄3 innings of work, while allowing four hits and two walks. He allowed two earned runs and threw 130 pitches on a 90-degree day. Turner had two doubles, two singles and two RBI in the first win, while Hamons added two single and three RBI.
Against Fremont, it was an ominous start for Post 83, as starting pitcher Bryant gave up a first-pitch home run in the top of the first for a 1-0 deficit. However, Bryant got the lead back for good with a two-run single in the bottom of the first inning and the offense rolled from there, scoring 17 runs on 19 hits.
Leading 8-2 through four innings, Post 83 broke it open with a six-run fifth.
Fluharty led off the inning with a triple and scored on an RBI single by Gundlach. Two batters later, Turner hit his second RBI triple of the game to make it 10-2, and he scored on an RBI single by Koch that made it 11-2.
Trey Keegan (Sandusky) scored Koch with an RBI single and Hamons cleared the bases with a two-run triple that made it 14-2.