Festus Post 253 rallied twice to take the lead, but it couldn't muffle a revved-up Tupelo, Miss., lineup in the first round of the American Legion Mid-South Regional on Thursday at Minden, La.
Tupelo defeated Festus 14-13 on the opening day of the five-day, double-elimination tournament.
Tupelo tied the game with back-to-back home runs in the eighth inning and won it in the bottom of the ninth on a walk-off RBI double. Last week, Tupelo won the Mississippi state tournament with a walk-off home run in the title game.
Festus is scheduled to play the loser of Thursday night's first-round game matching Ada, Okla., and the host team, Minden, in a losers' bracket game Friday.
The Mid-South tournament features seven state championship teams along with the host team. Besides Festus, Tupelo and Ada, the regional field includes state champs Texarkana, Ark., Columbia, Tenn., Emporia, Kan., and Gonzales, La. The regional winner will advance to the American Legion World Series next week at Shelby, N.C.
Festus, the first Missouri team since World War II to win three consecutive legion state titles, slipped to 34-6 with the loss. Tupelo, which has won the Mississippi state championship six times since 2000, improved to 26-8 with Monday's victory.
Six Festus pitchers allowed 18 hits in the loss. Alex Winkelman started for Festus and pitched 4 1/3 innings and gave up six runs. Tupelo scored the game-winner on a two-out double off Caleb Wilkerson in the bottom of the ninth.
Pitchers on both sides had to work harder than usual as they battled both boiling-hot temperatures and leaky defenses. The temperature topped 100 degrees Thursday – and more of the same is forecast each day through the end of the tournament. The hot weather melted the defense: Festus committed four errors and Tupelo had eight.
Festus spent most of Thursday's first-round game battling from behind. The only times it had the lead were in the fifth and eighth innings. Post 253 scored three runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead, but Tupelo answered with five runs in its half of the fifth. In the eighth inning, Festus scored seven to go up 13-11, but Tupelo tied the game in its half of the inning.
Festus slugged a pair of three-run home runs to take the lead in the eighth. Connor Eisenbeis, who paced Festus' 11-hit offense with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs, and Zac Faulkner homered in the eighth inning to give Festus the 13-11 lead.