LANCASTER – The Utica Post 92 Juniors used every bit of the infield during the sixth inning Wednesday, and they found the holes to turn the tables on their opponent.
Utica scored six runs to rally for a 9-7 victory against host Lancaster Post 11 during the first round of the state tournament at Beavers Field. Utica led 2-0, but then trailed 6-2 entering the sixth.
“We’ve been pretty good with getting our heads back into the game,” third baseman Grant Porterfield said. “Our pitching declined a little bit, but as we got back into it, we got a new pitcher in and we started to hit the ball.”
Post 92 plays Athens Post 21 at 12:30 p.m. Friday in a quarterfinal of the 16-team single-elimination tournament. The four remaining first-round games are Thursday.
With two outs and a runner on base, No. 9 hitter Dillon Carr drew a walk in the sixth inning, and that turned the momentum just enough.
“We have a good team this year,” catcher David Haines said. “I knew we were going to get it done. We have a lot of good hitters around me.”
Grant Foster singled through the left side to score a run, and Alex Strouse then beat out an infield hit to load the bases. Haines pulled a single to the right side that scored two runs, and Porterfield grounded a double down the third-base line to score the go-ahead runs.
“I got walked twice, so I was just focused on getting the bat on the ball and trying to put it somewhere to score runs, which we needed,” Porterfield said.
Mathew Rey hit an RBI single to left to cap the inning. Post 11 scored on a balk in the bottom of the sixth to close within a run, but Rader Felumlee reached on an infield hit, stole second and then advanced to third and home on a passed ball and wild pitch to regain Utica’s two-run lead in the seventh.
Two Lancaster hitters reached with two outs in the bottom of the inning, but Grant Foster induced a pop-up to end the game. Foster relieved Strouse in the fourth inning and pitched the final 31/3 innings.
“I was so proud of them just to come back against an outstanding team,” said Utica coach Greg Strouse, whose team is the youngest in the tournament with 11 players who are entering their sophomore year.
“This is a funny game, and it just so happened the ball bounced our way. We got a couple breaks and a couple big hits.”
Haines delivered again and again for Utica. The left-handed hitter lined a single to right-center to score Foster with the first run in the first inning. In the third inning, Haines hit the hole between second and third bases to score Strouse.
“I don’t want to be pull-heavy as a hitter,” said Haines, who finished with three hits and four RBIs. “I want to make sure I can hit to all fields and just go with the pitch.”
Supporting Haines were Foster, Strouse, Rey and Caleb Claggett with two hits each. Foster and Strouse scored two runs apiece, and eight of the nine hitters in the order reached base.
Strouse, a left-hander, threw three scoreless innings before losing his strike zone in the fourth. However, he did not hang his head, moving to center field and making consecutive diving catches in the fifth inning to keep Utica in the game.
“This game is the ultimate conduit to life because life is about failure and overcoming those failures and then learning from them and rising to the top,” Greg Strouse said.