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Ballwin comes up short in Zone 4 Legion loss to Jackson

Ballwin comes up short in Zone 4 Legion loss to Jackson

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STE. GENEVIEVE — Robbie Norman was impressed.

Impressed, but not intimidated.

The Ballwin American Legion shortstop shook his head in frustration minutes after Post 611 dropped a 3-0 decision to Jackson on Thursday in the opening round of the American Legion Zone 4 baseball tournament at Yanks Field.

"They're probably the best team we've seen this year," said Norman, a recent Marquette High graduate. "But I'm not sure they're that much better than us."

Ballwin (16-15) dropped into the consolation side of the five-team, double-elimination affair and will face Perryville at 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Post 611 still has a shot at the crown — or the runner-up spot. The two teams that reach the championship game both advance to the state tournament Aug. 1-3 in Sedalia.

So the loss was not as painful as it would have been in a tournament that featured just one state berth.

"From now on, we've just got to play like it's our last game — because it is," Ballwin coach Mike Bellville said. "We have the pitching to win a few in a row and get things back on track."

Post 611 needs three successive wins to reach Sunday's championship game.

"There's no reason we can't do that," Norman said. "Winning three in a row, we've done that before." 

Post 611 had its share of chances but simply couldn't come up with a big hit at the right time against Jackson right-hander Tanner Hecht, who tossed a complete-game four-hitter.

Ballwin stranded seven baserunners and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. It put two men on in three of the final four frames.

"Plenty of chances," Bellville said. "We just didn't execute. A couple of bone-headed mistakes hurt us at the wrong times."

Post 611 made a baserunning blunder that killed a chance in the fourth inning. With the contest still scoreless, Mitchell Hoffman singled with one away and Matthew Bemus reached on a wide throw by third sacker Boone Gartman. But as Hoffman beat a return throw to third, Bemus strayed too far off the bag at first and was picked off.

Ballwin put two of the first three runners on in the sixth, but Hoffman and Bemus came up empty against Hecht, a Jackson High grad headed to Missouri Valley College in Marshall.

"My curveball was good, I could tell that right from the first inning," Hecht said. "Threw it about 50 percent of the time."

Jackson (28-12) finally solved Ballwin southpaw Jackson Schmersahl in the bottom of the fifth.

Outfielder Mason Lewis slammed a two-run homer over the wall in left to break the scoreless tie. Lewis, who attends Saxony Lutheran High, was waiting on a first-pitch fastball.

"I just got on top of it and hit it hard," Lewis said.

Schmersahl matched Hecht pitch for pitch until the fifth inning.

"He was tough on us," said Jackson coach Mark Lewis, father of Mason. "We had to earn everything."

Noah Sainato reached base twice for Ballwin.

"There are things we've got to be better at," Bellville said. "And we will be. We faced adversity all year. We know how to handle it."

Trenton Bell, from CBC, will start on the mound for Ballwin in Friday's elimination game.

"We've just got to get back to doing things the way we know how," Norman said. "We'll be fine."

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