Remington Post 280 continued its domination at the American Legion Lafayette Sectional tournament at Loeb Stadium Sunday, beating Crawfordsville Post 72 15-4 in seven innings to win its third-straight sectional crown.
Both teams will advance to the American Legion Regional at Loeb Stadium next weekend.
Remington, made up mostly of local players from schools like Benton Central, Frontier, North White, Twin Lakes and Tri-County, proved again to have plenty of offense. Post 280 averaged 10.3 runs per game over the tournament.
The 2-3-4 batting order of Chad Schultz, Riley Benner and Brandon Gallinger went 23 for 38 (.605) in the tournament.
“I really couldn’t ask any more of those guys,” Remington manager Craig LeBeau said. “If you throw in our lead hitter (John O’Malley), he got on base like 15 times.”
O’Malley was a reliable spark plug Sunday, reaching base all five times he came to the plate, two on hits, twice when he was hit by pitches and once on a walk. He scored five times, as well.
“I don’t think I’ve ever scored five times in a game,” said O’Malley, a product of Benton Central. “I may have scored four times in a game before. It’s easy when you have Riley and Gallinger hitting behind you. If you get on base, those guys are going to bring you in.”
Benner and Gallinger were particularly brutal against Crawfordsville pitching Sunday. Benner went 4-for-5 with five RBIs, a double and a triple. Gallinger reached base all five times he appeared as well, going 2-for-2 with three RBIs. Pitchers walked him twice and he reached another time on an error.
“Sometimes the ball falls and sometimes it doesn’t,” said Benner, who starred for Tri-County. “Today it did. I think this game gives us momentum going into next weekend. We want to win and get into the state tournament. We thought we could have last year, but it didn’t work out for us. I don’t think we dominated or anything like that, but we did what we had to do to win games.”
James Smith, another Benton Central alumnus, threw all seven innings for Post 280, scattering eight hits and four runs. Smith seemed to get stronger late, blanking Post 72 over the last three innings as Remington scored enough runs to stop the game because of the 10-run rule.
Smith also overcame four errors by his teammates in the early going that played a role in Crawfordsville’s four runs.
“I kept throwing because I just trusted them,” Smith said. “They’ve played great defense all season long and I knew I just had to keep the ball low to get ground balls or fly balls to let them do their job.”
What Smith’s teammates did do for him was put five runs on the scoreboard in the first inning and two more in the second. Crawfordsville never fully overcame the early 7-0 deficit.
“The early runs helped a lot,” Smith said. “I’ve never pitched in a championship game or anything like this before. Having the early cushion was nice. It helped me to go out and do my job.”
Leading 10-4 after five innings, Post 280 scored five runs in the sixth inning to give Remington a double-digit lead. Benner’s double and Gallinger’s single plated two runners each.
Crawfordsville coach Johnathan Pickett said he knew spotting Post 280 so many runs early would be their undoing, especially after his pitchers Conner Smith and Jake Haste issued 12 walks in six innings.
“Our pitching wasn’t as good as it had been in the other three games,” Pickett said. “We have to throw first-pitch strikes and walks are going to kill you. They got a lot of key hits with men on base because of all the walks and that always comes back to haunt you.”
Pickett said the regional tournament will give his players a chance to apply some of the lessons learned after the Remington loss.
“I’ve told my pitchers all summer that they have a great defense behind them,” Pickett said. “They just need to throw the ball and let them make plays. If you love baseball, this is the opportunity you want and you’ve got to really want it next weekend.”