The Pickerington Post 283 American Legion baseball team made another strong run in the state tournament, but was unable to earn its second trip to the Great Lakes Regional in three seasons.
One bad inning sealed Pickerington's fate at state, as Wayne County Post 68 scored four runs in the fifth inning en route to a 5-3 victory over Post 283 on Aug. 2 at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
"I may have left (starting pitcher) Jake Edwards in a little longer than I should have and that one's on me," coach Chris Weber said. "I kept feeling he would get out of it. He got the first two outs in the inning and was just one out away, so I figured he'd get out of it."
Instead, five consecutive hits and an error turned Post 283's 3-1 lead into a 5-3 deficit. Although Pickerington had runners reach base in the bottom of the fifth, sixth and eighth innings, it didn't score again.
Post 283 placed third in the eight-team, double-elimination tournament to finish 35-9 overall.
Wayne County defeated Napoleon Post 300 8-4 to win the championship and a berth to the regional.
"We won the state two years ago, finished fourth last season and now third, so it's difficult to be disappointed in that," Weber said. "The disappointment stems from not being able to coach most of these guys again.
"When you're with a great group of talented young men playing the greatest game there is all summer and spend more time with them than maybe you spend with your family, it's sad when it ends. The relationships you build in this game are so strong. It's a bond that's tough to explain."
Doug Connor was 3-for-3 to lead Pickerington against Wayne County. Adam Snyder was 2-for-4 with two RBI and Jordan Grubb added an RBI double.
Pickerington, which won its fourth consecutive district championship to advance to state, won its opener in the tournament July 30, beating Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 5-1. But a rough defensive outing was costly on July 31, as seven errors led to a 12-11 loss to Troy Post 43 in 12 innings.
Troy broke a 5-all tie with a five-run sixth. Pickerington trailed 11-8 in the ninth with a runner on first base and was down to its final out before rallying to force extra innings.
Greg Peffley, who was 5-for-7, hit a solo home run in the top of the 12th for Troy.
Tyler Magley was 2-for-3 with two runs for Pickerington. Snyder singled and tripled, scored three runs and drove in two. Chris Brake had three RBI and Tyler Makuch added two. Steve Asbury had two doubles.
Michael Long did not have an official at-bat in six plate appearances, as he walked five times and was hit by a pitch. He scored twice.
Sent to the losers bracket, Pickerington bounced back with a 7-1 win over Harrison Yeager Post 199 on Aug. 1. Connor scattered five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts and did not allow an earned run. He also hit a two-run double.
Post 283 was comprised of players from seven high schools -- Watkins Memorial (Asbury, Connor, Rickey Frey, Derek Helbing and Kyle Gannon); Liberty Union (Magley, Makuch, Eric McClure, Johnny Putnam and Snyder); Pickerington North (Edwards and Grubb); St. Charles (Chris Brake and Zach Brake); Newark (Long); Bloom-Carroll (Scott Baker and Jacob Newton); and Fairfield Union (Chad Burge).
"I thought I knew baseball until I got here," Long said. "I learned so much more being with Post 283 and these coaches. They help you become better and you get to work on all of the small things that truly add up and help you to reach your potential. I really enjoyed this season and all of my teammates."