Post 118 masters Carl Junction
They don't call him the Blue Eye Bomber for nothing. Zach Campbell smoked a home run over the left field fence to give Irwin-Easley Post #118 a 2-0 lead in the first of two games at Wildcat Field on Saturday, and the Cassville-based squad went on to sweep the twinbill over Carl Junction Post #781, 6-3 and 7-1.
Carl Junction came to town with a 14-1 record. Jeremy Marple's team had a 15-2 mark after taking a pair of games at Webb City on Wednesday night.
Travis Northern pitched all seven innings of the opening act and cruised through the first four innings. Meanwhile, Campbell's first-inning bomb ignited a five-run opening inning for the Cassville crew. Evan Stubblefield's soft infield single produced a run, and John Cavness delivered a two-RBI single to complete the inning.
CJ pitcher Jake Stevenson worked for a leadoff walk from Northern in the second and scored on Jeff Terry's RBI single to right field. In the bottom of that inning, Josh Hartin reached on an error and came home on Jon Riley's RBI single to create a 6-1 lead.
Both Stevenson and Northern were in command in the fourth inning, holding their respective teams scoreless. But Northern ran into trouble in the top of the fifth. He hit Terry with a pitch, gave up a single to Hugh Cramer and then surrendered an infield hit to Jaren Hulette. Bases loaded, no outs.
Benny McWilliams hit a high chopper to Colten Beck at third base, and he fired to Hartin at home for the force out to save a run. With one out and the bases still loaded, Matt Thompson drove Northern's next offering into center field for a two-RBI single.
When Post 118's big redhead walked Payton Walker to load the bases again, Northern appeared to be on the ropes. But he took a deep breath and proceeded to strike out both Ryan Anderson and Stevenson to hold the score at 6-3.
Neither team would score after that. Stevenson pitched to the minimum in both the fifth and sixth innings, gaining velocity as the game progressed. CJ's Terry reached base on an error in the sixth inning, but a classic 6-4-3 double play killed any scoring hopes for the visitors.
Northern closed the deal for Post 118 in the seve th, but not before Carl Junction brought the tying run to the plate. Hulette led off the inning with a single, and Walker drew a two-out walk before Anderson's groundout to Ricky Vanderpool ended the game.
Except for Post 118's first-inning scoring blitzes, CJ played some tough ball. In the second game, Vanderpool took over the pitching duties and set down the visitors in order, and then his teammates quickly spotted him to a 6-0 lead.
Eleven Cassville batters went to the plate against Matt Thompson, scoring six runs on five hits, two errors and a walk. Riley opened the scoring with an RBI double that plated Trevor Tanner, then Northern knocked in Riley with an RBI double. Stubblefield's single to right scored two more runs, another run scored on a fielding error, and Kyle Rhea competed the scoring with an RBI single to left.
Another first-inning meltdown had cost Carl Junction a half a dozen runs, and they trailed 6-0 early in a five-inning game.
Stubblefield came through with another RBI in the bottom of the second as the lead grew to 7-0.
Carl Junction finally scored against Vanderpool in the top of the third. Anderson's leadoff single turned into a run when Keegan Pittman hit a clutch two-out double to left. But Vanderpool struck out Dillon Degani on five pitches to get out of the mini-jam.
Neither team scored in the third or the fourth inning. Riley, the best closer in the league, came on to finish for Post 118. Riley fanned Hough, Anderson and Phillips in order, and the sweep was complete.
This was a crucial game for Post 118, as Carl Junction will host the 2010 district American Legion tournament beginning on July 14.
"Our kids are playing really well and have a lot of confidence right now," said Marple.