By GRANT ESSENMACHER Sports Editor
EVANSVILLE-- In most baseball leagues, a 10-run deficit is just about impossible to rally from. But, given the propensity for powerful offense in American Legion Baseball, 10 runs can evaporate quickly. That was the case for Evansville Eugene Pate, who opened up a large lead on Post 25 only to see it evaporate in two innings.
Post 25 welcomed back two key cogs to their lineup and rotation in Westin Voegel and Jacob Mason. Voegel is the likely game 1 starter of the regional for Coach Lance Flener, and showed some rust after taking over a month off from the game. Voegel lasted just 1 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on four hits.
"He (Voegel) hasn't pitched since the regional five weeks ago. He was definitely a little rusty. He found it a little bit toward the end of the first, beginning of the second," Flener. "He's starting game one in the regional against Newburgh. He was my best pitcher last summer. Wes is a gamer."
The plan is for Voegel to also start Thursday, as well as throw a bullpen early next week so he can be ready to go for the regional game on July 19. Pate scored two in the first, four in the second, three in third, and three in the fourth to open up a 12-2 lead over Post 25 through four innings. Post 25 was flat to start, according to Flener, who was frustrated with how his team showed up.
"I was a little disapointed in that (lack of energy). I would've thought we would have a little bit more fire, coming off the win Friday, two wins yesterday, the celebration for the state (championship) team, I would've thought we'd have a little bit more fire," Flener said. "I don't know what to make of it. They are 16, 17, 18 year-old kids. That's the only thing I can make of it."
The lead left the top of the fifth for Post 25 to score at least one-run, or risk getting mercied. They answered.
A towering grand slam from Cody Hupp, a single from Grant Oexmann, and a single from Cale Colbert pulled Post 25 to within three runs, 12-9. All of the sudden, it was a game.
"It could've been real easy for us to lay down and die there when we're down 12-2. Our guys did a great job that inning of taking real good approaches. I didn't see any selfish at-bats that inning, they were just good approaches," Flener said.
Pate responded in the bottom of the fifth scoring one run, but Post 25 came roaring back once again with a four-run sixth. Oexmann was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Trevor Boyle had a two-run double, and David Jones enduced an error that scored a run. The game was knotted at 13 heading into the seventh inning.
Mason, Nathan Craven, and Reid Smith did the relief work for Post 25, with Smith tasked with keeping the game tied at 13 in the bottom of the seventh. Pate laced a triple to the fence with one out in the inning, causing Princeton to bring in the infield and outfield. The next batter for Pate, Mason White, dropped a soft single in between third and left field, good enough to bring in the winning run.
Post 25's three-game win streak is snapped, and they fall to 5-10 on the season. Flener says they still feel confident heading into regional play, considering the results and good play they have seen when they have matchup up against regional foes throughout the regular season.
"They've (Pate) played us twice, and we've only lost by one both times. The first time was only with nine guys. I can guarantee you that they are not real comfortable with where they were at tonight. We're fine being the underdogs going into the tournament," Flener said.
Post 25 will conclude their regular season this weekend, when they host Terre Haute at Gil Hodges Field at 6 p.m. Thursday, and travel to Boonville on Saturday. Regional tournament play will begin on Thursday, July 19 at Newburgh.