Saturday night’s American Legion regular season baseball finale between Mechanicsville Post 175 and Ashland Post 206 was a microcosm of the regular season for both teams.
Mechanicsville Post 175’s Anthony Zona makes the run home during last week’s game against Post 125. Mechanicsville went on to clinch the top seed in the district tournament following a win over Post 206 Saturday.
Mechanicsville played tough defense, displayed pitching depth, and hit when it counted, scoring seven runs in the fourth inning to break open a contest that ended at 18-3 after just seven innings. The victory gave Post 175 a 12-2 record for 2014, good for the number one seed in the District 11 Tournament that begins today.
For Ashland, mistakes in the field, an unlucky hop or two, and lack of pitching depth simply exposed what has plagued Post 206 all season, as they fell to 1-13. As the eighth seed, they must go to Hanover High and play Post 175 again in the tournament’s first round.
Post 175 coach Bobby White credits successful refocusing after an 11-0 loss at Lakeside Post 125 July 1 for his team’s current six-game winning streak.
“We revisited what our goals were going to be down the stretch and the number one goal was to be playing the best baseball we could play going into the tournament,” White explained.
After a scoreless first, Mechanicsville scored twice in the second. Andrew Sergent, who went five-for-five on the night with four runs scored, singled to right as the wind carried the ball away from right fielder Christian Trayer, giving Sergent time to reach second. Anthony Zona singled, plating Sergent. After a walk to Evan Swecker, Post 206 catcher Cameron Stanley caught Zona trying to steal third base. Josh Lam answered with a sharp grounder to second that took a sudden high hop over the head of Troy Fiorello, advancing Swecker to third. Swecker scored on a squeeze bunt by Roy Coates to make it 2-0.
The heart of the order struck for three more in third, as Sergent doubled to score Josh Shepherd, Sergent scored on a Swecker single, and Zona, who reached earlier in the frame on a fielders choice, scored on Lam’s second single of the night.
Post 206 answered with two of their own in the bottom of third when Brett Whitlow and Stanley scored when starting pitcher Joe Buehren singled to left. Ashland went to the bullpen in the fourth with reliever Colton Crawley. Post 175 took full advantage as Crawley struggled from the rubber.
He faced 11 Mechanicsville batters, allowing seven runs, five hits, three walks, two hit batsmen, a wild pitch and a balk. When Fiorello entered with two out in relief, he induced a flyout from Josh Shepherd to end the inning. The Post 175 lead was 12-2.
Mechanicsville added six more runs in the fifth and sixth. They were only retired in order in the seventh, with the game well in hand.
Sergent’s night was indicative of the flow of the game, how Post 206 seemed to line shots right after 175 defenders, while Mechanicsville would find the opening or get the lucky bounce. Two of Sergent’s hits were hard shots; others were benefited by luck.
“Those two hits weren’t struck well, but they fell through,” Sergent noted. “We switched some people around beginning at Powhatan and it’s worked really well. Now, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
In their last six games, Mechanicsville has won by scores of 8-6, 5-4, 23-2, 7-2, 3-2, and 18-3. The sign of a maturing team is the ability to win in a variety of ways. Post 175 is mastering that craft at the perfect time.
“We’re not worried about peaking early at all,” White said. “Everyone is rested. Clearly, though, as their coach, I’m going to remind the team that from this point every team will give them their best effort.”
Ashland will likely send ace Brett Whitlow (Eastern Mennonite) to the hill in tonight’s first round game. When he started June 27 against Mechanicsville, Post 175 escaped with a 3-2 win.
“I think it helps that we faced Brett in the 3-2 game when he pitched as well as he did,” White said. “We know we’re going to have our hands full.”
First pitch for round three between the county rivals is 7 p.m. at Hanover High School. The tournament is a double-elimination format with games at higher seeds through Saturday, and the final four teams squaring off beginning Sunday at L.C. Bird High School in Chester.
This is Mechanicsville’s third consecutive District 11 regular season title. They’ll look for their third straight tournament crown, and state tourney berth, over the next seven days.