Host Washington pounds St. Charles twice to earn third straight state berth

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Host Washington pounds St. Charles twice to earn third straight state berth
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WASHINGTON, Mo. • The Washington Post 218 senior legion baseball team had to do it the hard way, but it did it.

The two-time defending Zone 1 Tournament champions made it three in a row Sunday at Ronsick Field by knocking off District 9 rival St. Charles two times – 9-4 and 17-4.

Washington (36-7) will make its third straight appearance at the AAA state tournament – and second under current manager Mike Gardner – Thursday through Saturday in Sedalia.

“We came to play today,” Gardner said. “We felt like we gave them the game the other day, so we really wanted to come out and stress we were the better team.”

After coming from behind to knock off Post 218 on Saturday afternoon, St. Charles (33-20) was sitting in prime position heading into Sunday with no losses, but instead it is left with thoughts about what might have been.

“I thought going in that both of these games would be like 3-1 or 3-2,” Post 312 manager Kurt Denningman said. “When I saw they came to hit, I didn’t think we could hit with them. We haven’t done it all year. They out-hit us and beat us. Flat as that.”

With the rare sight of thunderstorms Sunday morning that delayed the start of the championship by two hours, Washington players likely packed their goulashes for the trip to the ballpark, but they most definitely packed their hitting shoes.

In the two games combined, Post 218 littered the field with 31 hits and it scored in all but two of the nine innings in Game 1 and in all six innings in Game 2.

“We were pretty slow at first in the tournament, but I knew we had the bats to do it,” three-hole hitter Trent Leimkuehler said. “We have hitters all up and down the lineup. Today kind of shows the state we’re coming with bats and pitching and defense and we’re ready to win.”

Post 218 hitting stars were as abundant as the joyous participants and spectators lining High Street just outside the ballpark for Sunday afternoon’s Washington Town and Country Fair parade.

In the opener, Leimkuehler and Mike McGilvray each went 3-for-5 with two runs batted in, Matt Jones had a pair of hits (including a home run) and three RBIs and Grant Eckelkamp and Jack Kopmann also had two hits apiece.

In the nightcap, Leimkuehler blasted two homers among his three hits, Dustin Howard went 3-for-4 with three runs scored, Kopmann had two hits, including a two-run homer, Sam Dechenes had two hits and three RBIs and McGilvray scored two runs and also drove in a pair.

Not to be overlooked was the pitching performance in Game 1 by Tony Helfrich, who saved some bullpen arms by going the distance and allowing just four runs on seven hits with no walks and seven strikeouts.

“Anytime in a championship game you can get somebody to throw a complete game that’s big,” Gardner said. “He pitched well and that really helped us move on.”

Also not to be forgotten was the job Jones did on the mound in Game 2. With the game still hanging in the balance, he came in to get the final three outs in the fourth and ended up tossing four scoreless innings to close out his third game of the zone tourney.

“I’m usually pretty good for that,” Jones said. “I usually come in and throw strikes and that’s what they wanted, so I got the job done the way they wanted it to get done.”

St. Charles started like gangbusters in the opener, as the first two batters of the game reached base and scored to give Post 312 a quick 2-0 lead.

“I felt so good about getting those two runs,” Denningman said. “I thought ‘this is gonna be good.’ But, it fizzled out real quick.”

Washington responded with a run in the first on an RBI fielder’s choice by McGilvray and two more runs in the second on a run-scoring single by Kopmann and an RBI double by Noah Borgerding to wipe out the only lead St. Charles would enjoy all afternoon.

Post 218 tacked on a pair of runs in both the third and fourth innings to go up 7-2. Jones’ long blast to left-center accounted for the two runs in the third and a McGilvray RBI single followed by a Jones run-scoring double highlighted the fourth.

St. Charles got those two runs back in the fifth on back-to-back RBIs by Adam Ricks (single) and Connor Brett (fielder’s choice), but Washington scored single runs in the seventh (RBI single by Kopmann) and the eighth (sacrifice fly by Howard) to close the scoring.

The nightcap was over soon after it started, as Post 218 sent 10 men to the plate and scored six times in the bottom of the first.

Five straight hits – RBI singles by McGilvray and Jones, a seeing-eye single by Howard, a two-run double by Dechenes and an infield single by Kopmann – made it 4-0 and the final two runs of the inning scored when Borgerding’s fly ball to right was dropped.

Andrew Holtgreive picked up an RBI double for Post 312 in the top of the second, but Leimkuehler matched that in the bottom half of the frame with a bomb over the fence just to the right of dead center field to make it 7-1.

St. Charles looked to get back in it with a two-run third on RBIs by Michael Pundmann (sac fly) and Kyle Kramer (double), but Washington had yet another answer with a four-run bottom of the third.

After an error scored one run, Kopmann turned on the first pitch he saw of his at-bat and jacked it down the left field line and over the 318’ sign for a 10-3 lead. A sac fly by McGilvray tacked on another run before the inning was through.

Alexander Rael drove in a run with a single to center in the top of the fifth, but an error in the bottom half of the frame negated that and allowed a Post 218 run to score.

Leimkuehler made it 13-4 in the bottom of the fifth with another long ball, this one to left-center, and Dechenes picked up an RBI infield single later in the inning.

Washington closed out the scoring with a three-run sixth behind a pinch-hit, two-run double by David McNeal and a pinch-hit, RBI single by Brendan Kleekamp, who was brilliant on the mound in Post 218’s 1-0 win over Jefferson City in the zone tourney opener this past Thursday and will likely get the call in the state tourney opener against Joplin at 5 p.m. this Thursday.

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