Pickerington Post 283 reached the final four in the American Legion state baseball tournament, but was unable to repeat as state champion.
Pickerington could not overcome a 4-3, 14-inning loss to Napoleon Post 300 in a winners bracket final in the night game July 31, as it returned the next morning and fell 9-5 to Circleville Post 134 in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
"We ran through a bunch of arms in the 14-inning loss the night before and we thought we could squeeze out some innings, but it didn't happen," said coach Chris Weber, whose team had beaten Circleville 9-0 in the first round July 29 and Sandusky Post 83 10-0 on July 30. "We gave up three (runs) in the first and battled back into the game. We were down 4-3 going into the seventh, but then we gave up five."
Starter Jake Edwards of Pickerington North worked into the seventh inning before being relieved by Watkins Memorial's Doug Connor, who was unable to quell the rally. Watkins Memorial's Dan Sexton got out of the inning and finished the game.
Against Napoleon, Charlie Schmidt of Watkins Memorial allowed two earned runs in seven-plus innings. But a pair of wild pitches scored two of Napoleon's first three runs.
Post 283 led 3-1 through five innings, as St. Charles product Chris Brake had an RBI single in the third and Pickerington Central product Devon Fisk had a two-run double in the fourth.
Napoleon tied it in the sixth before the pitching shut out the offenses for seven consecutive innings. Napoleon had back-to-back walks to lead off the bottom of the 14th and Tyler Torrez singled to right field to end the contest.
"It was a classic," said Weber, whose team finished 37-11, reached the state final four for the third consecutive season and earned the program's 10th district/region championship. "Both teams had some missed scoring chances and the defenses were great."
The beneficiaries of the long contest were Circleville and Sandusky. Circleville took advantage by beating Pickerington and Sandusky pressured Napoleon before losing 9-7 in the afternoon game Aug. 1. Circleville then gave Napoleon its first loss, 11-0 in the night game Aug. 1 to force the championship game Aug. 2, which Napoleon won 13-1.
This season, the state changed formats to more equally divide Legion teams, as 12 districts were redrawn into eight regions.
Pickerington advanced to state by beating Athens Post 21 10-4 in the Region 6 championship game July 17 at Beavers Field.
"There's nothing to be disappointed about," Weber said. "This team improved as much as any team I've ever coached. The guys were motivated. We were a young team and I couldn't be more proud them. From where they were in June until where they are now ... it's amazing.
"Plus, with at least 11 guys coming back who got invaluable experience at state this year, well, it should be another great year next season."
Post 283 loses five players because of age limitations. They are Tony Winters and Schmidt of Watkins Memorial, Pickerington North's Kyle Montell, Canal Winchester's Chris Engle and Fisk.
Those with eligibility remaining are Brake, Watkins Memorial products Steve Asbury, Derek Helbing, Jordan Miller, Will VanHoose, Connor and Sexton, Bloom-Carroll's Scott Baker, Fairfield Union's Chad Burge, North's Jordan Grubb and Edwards, Canal Winchester's Isac Pifer and Central's Zach Vandemark.