Jeremy Isenman cringed every time he heard the announcement.

The Festus American Legion Post 253 pitcher recalled each annoying moment during the Mid-South Regional Tournament that ended Sunday in Hastings, Nebraska.

When the public address announcer introduced the teams before each game, the Post 253 lineup was preceded by, "And now the runners-up from the state of Missouri."

Yes, the Jefferson County-based team got into the eight-team regional event despite losing to Sedalia 3-0 in 10 innings in the state championship game August 3.

But Isenman and his teammates did not want that point hammered home during all five of their regional games.

"It put a spark in the fire and made us all play harder," said Isenman, a recent St. Pius X grad.

Properly motivated, Festus went out and stunned the field by capturing the five-day showdown with an 8-3 win over the Bryant (Ark.) Black Sox in the championship game.

The regional crown earned Post 253 a trip to the American Legion World Series, which begins this week in Shelby, North Carolina.

Festus (36-12) plays Albuquerque (34-2) in the opening game of pool play at noon Thursday.

Post 253 took the long and difficult road to its second World Series berth.

Festus finished fifth in the 2009 World Series after winning the Central Plains Regional.

Post 253 placed second to Ste. Genevieve in the Zone 4 Tournament this season but advanced to the four-team state tourney because two teams from that zone were allowed to move on.

Ditto for the state tournament. This year it was Missouri's turn to have two entrants in the Mid-South Regional.

"I think some people didn't think we deserved to keep playing," said Festus catcher Isack Hamilton, who will be a senior at Hillsboro High. "But it just motivated us."

Isenmen is the co-ace of the staff along with Jordan Duncan, a senior at Herculaneum High.

The two banded together to record two wins and a save in Hastings.

Duncan also hit .421 with four RBI and was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the regional.

Isenman said the players entered the tournament with a "chip on their shoulder" following the difficult loss to Sedalia in the state final.

"I thought we could be playing better and we just needed to go out and show it," Isenman said.

Explained Hamilton, "We got it into our heads that if we play our own game, have our own energy, we'll be fine."

Post 253 won the first three games of the double-elimination regional tournament before dropping a contest to Hastings on Saturday to set up Sunday's final.

Festus now feels as though it is clicking on all cylinders.

Still, the players are having a hard time believing they have advanced to the biggest tournament in the country.

The American Legion season began with 3,512 teams nationwide, and now just eight are left.

"I was laying in bed (Sunday) night and I thought to myself, 'Did this really happen?' " said Isenmen, who will continue his career at Maryville University.

Hamilton called the postseason run, "A dream come true."

"It's always been my goal, and the goal of this team, to be a part of something like this," Hamilton said. "Now, that it's happened, it's kind of unreal."

Post 253 manager Zac Bone is in his 15th year with the program. He served as an assistant to his father Pat, who ran the team during the 2009 run to the World Series.

"This is a one-of-a-kind baseball experience and I know these guys will appreciate it," Bone said.

Bone is extremely pleased with his pitching staff, which held opponents to three runs or fewer in four of the five regional games. Isenman went 2-0. Brendon Smock, who likely will start the opener in Shelby, and Jake Leitner also came through with some solid innings.

The majority of the tournament will be broadcast live on ESPNU, including Post 253's prime-time game against Desterhan, Louisiana, at 6 p.m. Friday.

The team stayed in Hastings on Sunday and Monday night before flying to North Carolina on Tuesday to prepare for the World Series.

Several of the players had never been on a plane before.

"No matter what happens, this is something we'll remember for the rest of our lives," Hamilton said.

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