RANTOUL — The Rantoul Post 287 American Legion baseball team started the weekend strong, but wasn’t able to carry that momentum to the end.
On Saturday, Post 287 went 2-0 in its doubleheader, winning 12-2 against Piatt County and 11-1 against Champaign Post 24, but lost both doubleheader games against Shelby County on Sunday, 9-1 and 4-3.
In game one against Piatt County, Post 287 was led by Jake Welbes, who went 2 for 3, including a triple that drove in three runs in the bottom of the fourth to give his team a 6-1 lead.
Brendan Yocius went 3 for 4, including an RBI single to give Post 287 run number 12 in the sixth, which ended the game because of the 10-run rule. Yocius drove in two runs and scored once.
Post 287 fell behind Piatt County 1-0 in the first, but the lead did not last.
In that same inning, Nathan Garard singled and came around to score after Luke Jones was hit by a pitch, a fielder’s choice and a wild pitch. Hayden Cargo rapped an RBI single to give his team a 2-1 lead.
“We started a little slow, but we picked the game up in about the third or fourth inning,” general manager Garry Smith said. “We hit the ball the way I thought we should. We played a good game, not a great game.”
Jed Chow earned the win, pitching six innings in which he allowed two runs (one earned) on six hits, one walk and struck out 10.
“Chow pitched a good game despite having a little trouble in the first inning,” Smith said. “The last five he pitched very well. When he changes speeds he can be very effective. He uses the curveball usually for the strikeout, and today he was very effective with it.”
Post 287 received some help on defense from Cargo, who made a diving catch in the third to take a hit away from Piatt County.
In game two against Champaign Post 24, Post 287 had no trouble coming out with a 11-1 win.
Offensive leaders for Post 287 were Garard, who went 2 for 4, drove in three runs and scored once. Cargo drove in two runs with a double in the third to give his team a 4-0 lead. Emmanuel Lutes drove in two runs and scored once.
Miklo Strader got the start for Post 287 and pitched four innings in which he allowed one run on one hit, three walks and struck out five. Jake Schlueter pitched the final two innings, allowing no runs and struck out two.
In Sunday’s doubleheader, Post 287 went on the road to Shelby County.
Shelby County gets the better of Post 287
In its first game, the team struggled offensively only managing to score one run on four hits in its 9-1 loss. The one run came on a sacrifice fly hit by Eli Remington that scored Chad Vermillion.
Shelby County was led by Tanner Coleman with a 2-for-4 performance, driving in three runs and scoring once. Garrett Fritz put up a double and scored twice. Sam Hagerman had two singles and scored once.
Adam Crites took the loss for Post 287. Crites pitched 5 and 1/3 innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on five hits, three walks and struck out six. Vermillion allowed three earned runs, two hits and three walks.
Colton Reed got the win — pitching all seven innings and giving up one earned run on four hits, five walks and striking out three.
In game two, Post 287 had a much better performance but came up short in a 4-3 loss to Shelby County.
Post 287 took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first, but Shelby County responded later that inning, scoring three runs off of a walk and three singles.
In the sixth inning down 4-1, Cargo reached first after being hit by a pitch and advanced to third on Jones’ double. Cargo scored on a sacrifice groundout hit by Crites, and Jones scored on Jake Lykins’ single to cut the deficit to 4-3.
Post 287 had a chance to tie the game in the seventh. The team put runners on first and second after a walk by Strader and Welbes singled with one out. Strader advanced to third on a wild pitch, but was picked off by Coleman. Jones then grounded out to shortstop to end the game.
“We had a chance to win the second game,” Smith said. “We had runners on second and third with one out. We played to our ability in the last two innings of the day. We just didn’t have it in the first 12 innings of the day.”
Smith said his team needs to improve offensively, specifically when it comes to not waiting to take the first strike during an at bat.
“We are taking too many first-pitch strikes, and we are really struggling hitting the curveball,” Smith said. “We had a lot of strikeouts today against a good pitcher. He didn’t throw extremely hard, but he changed speeds. Those are things we are really going to have to work on.”
Smith said having to play two games on Saturday and then two on Sunday was hard on his team, making it tough to recuperate.
“Our energy level and enthusiasm was definitely lacking compared to yesterday,” Smith said. “We ended up playing four games in about 23 hours. That’s pretty tough to do. That probably contributed to us being a little slow today.”
Contact Ben Theobald at firstname.lastname@example.org