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Festus comes up just short in Legion title tilt, still moves on to Mid-South Regional

Festus comes up just short in Legion title tilt, still moves on to Mid-South Regional

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SEDALIA — Levi Ebersoldt chose to look at the positive.

The Festus American Legion infielder needed just a few minutes to put Saturday's heartbreaking 3-0, 10-inning loss to Sedalia in the state championship game at Liberty Park into perspective.

Yes, Post 253 came very close to claiming its sixth state title and first since 2011.

But Festus will still be able to continue its eye-popping post-season run next week at the Mid-South Regional Tournament in Hastings, Nebraska.

The top two teams in Missouri's four-team, double-elimination affair move on to one of eight nation-wide regionals.

So the loss was not of the season-ending variety.

"Sure, we wanted to be able to say we're state champs," said Ebersoldt, a senior-to-be at Jefferson R-6 High. "But, it's been done before where teams have been second in the state and gone on to win the World Series.

If we keep winning - this won't matter."

Festus (32-11) will face Kansas state champion Emporia (34-2) at noon on Wednesday in the opening round of the eight-team, five-day double-elimination affair in Nebraska.

The winner advances to the 93rd American Legion World Series on Aug. 15-20 in Shelby, North Carolina.

Post 253 nailed down the runner-up Missouri spot with a 5-1 win over Washington on Saturday - it's second win over the Franklin County team in 24 hours.

The title affair on Saturday was simply for state-wide bragging rights. Festus, had it beaten Sedalia in the first game, would have needed another win over Post 642 to claim the crown.

The Festus players were quick to dismiss the loss, although it still hurt, according to Jacob Bridges, a recent Jefferson grad.

"We really wanted this," Bridges said. "Now, we just have to move on and win our regional."

Festus manager Zac Bone, who is in his 15th year with the program, took the loss hard.

"I'm disappointed for the kids, not in them," Bone said. "I'll be honest, I don't think we played well enough to win. We pitched well enough to win, but I'm not sure we did anything else well enough to win."

The snappily played 2 hour, 16-minute contest was highlight by a pitcher's duel. Post 253 right-hander Brendon Smock and Sedalia's Will Knight matched each other toss-for-toss for seven-plus innings. Smock, from Perryville, allowed just two hits before he was removed with one out in the eighth due to an excessive pitch count. He retired the last 13 hitters he faced.

Reliever Christian Hancock, a Hillsboro High grad, came on and set down the next five batters before Post 642 finally broke free in the 10th.

Connor Tichenor began the rally with a leadoff single. Brandon Kendle drew a walk and Braiden McEuchem followed with a bunt single to load the bases. Baron Austin then ripped a two-run single and Aaron Hughes added a run-scoring hit two outs later.

Festus, the home team, had chances in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.

"The opportunities were there," Ebersoldt said. "All we needed was one hit at the right time.":

The biggest chance came in the sixth. Bridges ripped a two-out single and Jordan Duncan, an incoming senior at Herculaneum High, followed with a hit down the right-field line. But Duncan was gunned down at second on a rocket-like throw from right fielder Brandon Kindle to end the threat.

Festus infielder Eddie Martin, who started the game with a web gem at second base, singled to lead off the eighth and Charlie Pratt got a hit to start the tenth.

"Just weren't able to get it going offensively when we needed to," Bone said.

Festus, which also lost to Sedalia 3-0 in Friday's battle of lone unbeaten teams, gave up just eight runs in four games totaling 31 innings.

"That's a pretty good team over there, this whole thing could have gone either way," Sedalia manager Tanner McKee said. "I don't know the type of teams we'll be facing (in the regional), but we should both be in the mix."

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