Baseball has a way of averaging things out. After the spectacular nine-game winning streak that saw Irwin-Easley Post 118 win the Marcus O' Hara Tournament in Monett on June 27, the Cassville American Legion team got a good dose of reality. The tournament victory was followed by a brutal week in which they won only once in six outings.
Monday night's doubleheader against always powerful McDonald County was not exactly a get-well matchup, but Post 118 managed a split on the road, winning the first game 7-3 while losing the twilight contest, 7-4.
McDonald County Post 392 was out of sync right out of the gate. Intimidating lefthander Bo Bergen pitched to only two batters before leaving the mound with a twinge in his elbow. Trevor Speagle warmed up in a hurry and retired Aaron Brooks for a one-two-three inning.
Tyler Reagan countered for the visiting Irwin-Easley squad, facing only four batters in the home half of the first.
Neither team scored in the second inning, but Ricky Vanderpool woke up the official scorer with a solo bomb over the left field fence in the third inning, and Post 118 took an early lead.
Vanderpool's blast was followed by a Reagan single, and then Brooks trotted down to first base after being hit by a pitch. Josh Hartin's RBI double and a two-run error gave Cassville a 4-0 lead.
Reagan cruised through five innings of work, only allowing a single score on a Nick Wills home run that was last seen bouncing off the top of the school buildings. Cassville plated another unearned run in the top of the sixth inning to open a 7-1 margin.
Reagan pitched out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the bottom of the sixth. He gave up one run but carried a 7-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh and final frame. Another tape measure home run by Drew Pearly for Mc County doomed Reagan's complete game hopes. Jon Riley came on to record the final two outs, and Post 118 had the 7-3 victory.
The first inning of the nightcap must have seemed like Groundhog Day for Kyle Rhea. After getting a gift 2-0 lead on an error and a bases-loaded walk, the big righthander faced the entire opposing lineup before finally getting three outs. McDonald County opened a 4-2 lead, but Rhea closed the door with back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning.
Post 118 had the tying runs on base in the second inning but that rally fizzled with no score. After the home team also went quietly in the second, Cassville tied the game on a Northern walk, a Hartin double, and Cody Cantwell's two-RBI single.
But the Irwin-Easley club would never take the lead. McDonald County's Post 392 scored once in the third inning and then salted the game away with a pair of runs in the fourth. McDonald County's Post 392 took the win, 7-4.
Only three more regular season match-ups remain before the District 15 tournament at Carthage.
Post 118 will host Aurora on Thursday, July 9 for a doubleheader beginning at 6 p.m. at Wildcat Field. Joplin will visit Cassville for a noon twinbill on Saturday, July 11. The Irwin-Easley team will travel to Miller for a pair of games beginning at 1 p.m. on Sunday, July 12.