Post 287 wins tourney crown
ELKINS, W. Va. — Post 287 had just one loss going into its final game Sunday at the Hillbilly Hardball Classic.
Post 175 from Severna Park, Md., the team Mifflin County was facing in the championship game, had nary a blemish from the tournament.
Bernie Howard, the Mifflin County manager, picked his strategy and the players made it a success — the locals won the crown with an 8-5 victory.
“We decided that what we needed to do was put pressure on them right away,” he said.
How about five first-inning runs?
Ross Underhill led off the game with its only extra-base hit, a double. Nick Hostetler drew a walk. Tyreen Smalley singled to put both of them on the scoreboard.
And Post 287 still had plenty of gas in the tank.
Max Oburn hit into a fielder’s choice to plate a run. Aaron Kanagy put another across with a base hit. Ty Bodtorf had another fielder’s choice, another run for Mifflin County — which scored single runs in two more innings before Severna Park managed to get one on the board.
“We had three or four stolen bases, we laid down two or three sacrifice bunts, We just played so aggressively,” Howard said.
On defense, too — Hostetler gloved five of seven fly balls. Post 287 turned a crucial double play with two on and one out. With one out in the seventh Post 175 had three hits in a row, the first time the Maryland team had seriously threatened.
“The next pitch … was a shot Nick Hostetler tracked down. Anything they hit, we seemed to be there,” Howard said.
The last play belonged to pitcher Ty Bodtorf, who went the distance to win the final — a chopper to the mound and a quick play to end it.
The Classic draws a large crowd, mostly Legion but some travel teams, and as Howard explains, is a great opportunity to be seen by college coaches.
“There were more teams from Florida than there were from Pennsylvania, and you don’t come that far to play a coupe games — these teams are good,” he said. “This is one of the treasons we go — because of the exposure our players get.”
After the 12-hour, three game baseball marathon, Howard still managed one thing — his sense of humor.
“We set a new standard for late checkout,” he quipped as the team was driving home, after 10 p.m. eastern and not an hour after pulling up stakes in Elkins.
On the final day of pool play, Post 287 handled Piqua, Ohio, Post 184 , 11-5. Underhill got the win, Hannon a save. Howard said it was accomplished mostly with small ball — Oburn converted a squeeze play, Cade Attick had two sac bunts, Oburn and Mock drove in three runs apiece.
The Mifflin County needed only five innings to annihilate Buckhannon, W.Va., Post 7, 15-2. It was a complete-game win for Andrew Larson.
“We basically overwhelmed them,” Howard said.
Attick, Maclay and Yoder each had two hits, Attick and Yoder drive in three each. Aaron Kanagy added a solo home run.
Post 287 wrapped up the Black Division title with a 4-1 record in the multi-state tournament Saturday, and began bracket play as the fourth seed taking on No. 5 Uniontown, Pa., Post 51 Sunday. Defending champ South Charleston, S.C., also was in the division and the bracket as the playoff segment opened Sunday.
A 2-2 game after one inning quickly tilted to Mifflin County, which won 10-6.
Attick and Mock delivered two-run doubles in the first and second innings, respectively, and Post 287 was successful on the squeeze for the fifth time in the tournament to score in the third, making it a 7-2 game.
An inning later, Oburn had a base hit to put two runners across and Larson plated one on a fielder’s choice.
“Pitching was really a concern at this point. We had already played five games,” Howard said.
He gave the ball to Connor Yoder, the only pitcher on the card who had not thrown.
“They really didn’t touch him until he gave up two hits in the seventh,” Howard said.
Drew Westover finished with a save. a pair of double plays helped.
“We had outstanding defense,” Howard said. “Hostetler had five putouts in that game including two sliding catches. That was a huge win.”
The No. 1 seed, a select travel team from Tampa, Fla., was next. Post 287 scored four runs in the fourth to win that one, 7-2.
The fourth was keyed by an RBI singles from Oburn and Kanagy, a Hostetler squeeze and two runs on sacrifice flies.
“We went to small ball and played fantastic defense again,” Howard said. “It paid off.”
Mifflin County went 7-1 in the tournament, is 14-3 overall and is scheduled to play at Altoona today.
Notes: Regular catcher Isaac Maclay missed Sunday’s game to report for the Lezzer Lumber football all-star game, which is Friday in Altoona. Aaron Kanagy caught all 21 innings.