Lafayette Post 11 missed out on a golden opportunity in the top of the eighth inning, failing to score after getting the first two batters on, and it cost them in a 4-3 loss to Kokomo Post 6 in the opening round of the American Legion regional at Loeb Stadium Thursday.
The loss moves Post 11 (15-9) into the loser’s bracket of the tournament, where they will play Lake Village Post 375 at 6:35 p.m. tonight. Kokomo (21-8) will take on Crawfordsville Post 72 in the winner’s bracket game at 4 p.m. today.
Attica Post 52 defeated Lake Village in the opening regional contest Thursday afternoon and will await the Kokomo-Crawfordsville winner at noon Saturday.
“That just means we’ll have to win five games from now until Sunday to win it,” said Lafayette 11 coach Dan Yeoman. “That’s why we play a couple of tournaments over the year so we can get to play four or five games over those days for when it really means something.”
Post 11 nearly avoided that stretch when Christian Howard singled and leadoff hitter Alec Beaver reached on a fielding error to start the eighth inning. After Brennan Argo struck out, Jake Fernung singled off Kokomo starter Austin Weaver to load the bases.
But Weaver rocked back and struck out Henry Fisher and Evan Francis for the last two outs to get out of the inning.
“We just needed to hit,” Yeoman said. “We had (our number) four and five (hitters) up. That’s what you want. They didn’t come through this time but they’ll come through next time.”
Kokomo coach Don Andrews said he could not asked of anything more from Weaver, throwing 118 pitches over nine innings, allowing Post 6 to save pitchers for the upcoming winner’s bracket games.
“I ask guys to always throw strikes,” Andrews said. “When pitchers get ahead of hitters, they want to start throwing pitches way outside. I always want them to be around the plate and get the other guys to swing.”
Post 11 starter, Central Catholic’s Nate Wiercioch, gave up three runs in the fifth inning but held Kokomo scoreless over the next three innings to give Lafayette a shot at grabbing the lead back.
“Nate Wiercioch threw awesome,” Yeoman said. “He threw 120-something pitches and we were watching that closely. He wanted to go back out in the eighth inning and he did a great job. We just needed to get a few hits for him.”
Kokomo took the lead in the fifth inning, scoring three runs, helped along by two errors. Braxton Hunt opened the inning with a single and advanced to third on a throwing error to first when Caleb Maddox attempted a bunt sacrifice.
Tristan Kivett’s sacrifice fly to right plated Hunt, S.A. Dunn reached on an error to score Maddox and Quilan Armstrong’s bases-loaded single later in the inning drove in Dunn to give Kokomo a 4-2 advantage.
Post 11 jumped on the scoreboard first with two runs in the second inning off Weaver. With two outs, Evan Sturgeon reached on an infield single, advanced to second on a passed ball and scored on Cole Fesler’s single. Josh Kessler followed with a single of his own to score Fesler from second base.
Kokomo got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning. Austin Pyle walked and then went to third on Armstrong’s groundout. Wiercioch was then called for a balk during Tim Blankenberger’s at-bat, allowing Pyle to score.
A Fernung double scored Beaver in the sixth inning to cut the deficit to one run, but Fernung was thrown out at the plate on a Fisher single later in the inning that prevented Post 11 from tying the contest.