Post 28 appeared primed and ready to challenge for the Delaware American Legion State Tournament title following consecutive slaughter victories over Delvets and Sussex West, but heavy rainfall and a top-ranked Steevers team would eventually derail the Warriors’ dreams.
The Warriors started the tournament with their backs to the wall and one game away from elimination after falling to Milford 3-2. Post 28 was only able to generate four hits in the losing effort and first baseman Kevin Van Vorst accounted for half of his team’s total.
“I guess we came in thinking Milford was a throwaway game — I mean they only won nine games,” said center fielder Justin Collins. “We came in with big heads and we didn’t come with our A game.’”
The Warriors left nothing undone against Post 1 Newark the following day and won 9-5 in the playoff-extended nine innings. Colin Warner pitched well enough to give the Warriors the win and another chance to move on in the playoffs.
Post 28 wouldn’t give Delvets the same luxury of keeping the game close and finished it in a 14-4 seventh inning slaughter rule victory behind the pitching of Zac Spece and Jake Lee. Collins led the charge by nearly hitting for the cycle (a homer would have made it complete) while Van Vorst added a homerun and a two-run double.
Post 28 now had two notches in their belt and looking for one more against 3-0 Sussex West.
Sussex West’s perfect record thus far in the state tournament assured them a place in the championship game, but against whom? They would play Georgetown or Post 28 and a loss against Sussex West would end the Warriors post season hopes.
Post 28 trailed Sussex West 3-0 going into the bottom of the second, but broke the silence on an RBI double by right fielder Jerry Meiklejohn to score shortstop Josh Dean from second base.
Second baseman James Davis then dinked a pitch to shortstop Cody Collins, who dove to stop the ball but couldn’t gather the ball for the throw. Davis’s RBI single scored Marsh, who had reached base on a single and advanced to third on Meiklejohn’s double.
Collins put Post 28 over the top two pitches later when he planted a Wade Eskridge pitch over a deep leftfield fence for a three-run homerun, giving the Warriors a 5-3 lead.
Sussex West would battle back and tie the game on a Collins RBI double to score leadoff man B.J. Jenkins and a rightfielder John Passwaters RBI single to bring in Collins, but it could’ve been worse.
Catcher Chuck Jefferson reached base on a full-count walk to give Sussex West runners at first and second with one out. but Jefferson was nailed at third base from a bee-line throw from centerfielder Collins.
Just a week before, Collins gunned out an opposing base runner from his right field position to third base at the Legion All-Star game, which Jefferson attended, but that play would have no effect on the base running on this day.
“I don’t know why they ran,” said Collins with a chuckle. “They should know better.”
Starting pitcher Trevor Abbott would end the inning on a swinging strikeout to first baseman Brian Green.
Post 28 small-balled in the bottom of the third to tack on two more runs on back-to-back sacrifice flies by third baseman Jay Marsh and second baseman Colin Warner to knock in catcher D.J. Clark and shortstop Josh Dean, respectively.
Clark went 4-5 with a double and Dean made first base his home for the day by gathering a trio of singles and drawing a walk on 3-4 hitting.
The game would remain in gridlock until the bottom of the eighth when Post 28 put the game out of reach.
Post 28’s heart of the lineup (Van Vorst, Clark and Dean) earned three straight singles to give Marsh a golden opportunity with no outs.
Marsh watched two Eskridge pitches sail past for called strikes but the next pitch wouldn’t make it to the Jefferson’s glove. By the time an opposing player’s glove would touch the ball again, all three base runners would score and Marsh would occupy third base, having given Post 28 a 13-6 lead.
Warner belted in Marsh on an RBI single (his only hit of the game) and Meiklejohn and Davis continued the parade with two more singles to again load the bases.
Collins put the final nail in the coffin by drilling a 2-0 fastball to the vast outfield for a two-run single — ending the game at 16-6.
“The boys hit well,” said Head Coach Mearl Layton. “They have a lit fire under them and they want to win.”
By beating the championship-clinching Sussex West team, repeating appeared to be an easy task, but Post 8 Steevers still stood in the way.
Everything would’ve been fine had Post 28 played Steevers the scheduled day, Aug. 7, according to Layton, but torrential rain postponed the game to the following day, and the Warriors didn’t have the same flair.
“The boy’s were pumped to play when they were supposed to play, but the rain took some of our momentum,” said Layton.
The game would again be postponed in the middle of the seventh inning for rain after Steevers had gone ahead 10-4.
Steevers capitalized on two Warrior errors and scored six runs on four hits. The wheels fell off after Collins’ diving attempt failed and allowed two to score. Dean had a ball take a bad hop over his left shoulder to score another run and Warner misplayed a ball to allow Steevers to keep scoring.
Post 28’s championship hopes had fallen just as hard as the rain that swamped Shutte Park, but they would travel back up for the third day to finish the game against Steevers.
Layton pulled Davis in favor of Spudis, who worked shutdown seventh and eighth innings, setting up Post 28 for one final push.
Again Marsh was given a golden opportunity with the bases loaded and delivered on a two-run single to score Jensen and Clark and cut the lead to 10-6, but Post 28 would get no further.
“Last season ended the same way,” said Layton. “We had the bases loaded with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.”
Despite a similar result in last year’s tournament, Layton noted marked improvement this season.
“We’re older and more mature team,” said Layton. “We had a hitting slump about mid-season but the boys starting hitting the ball very well after that first playoff game.”
Post 28 finished their season with a 23-10 conference record and 21-12 overall.