LANCASTER — The Pickerington Post 283 and Worthington Post 239 baseball teams both won their opening games in the American Legion state tournament on July 25.
Worthington scored 10 runs in the last two innings, including a one-out, two-run home run by Dan Eurich in the bottom of the ninth, to rally past Coshocton Post 65 10-9 in its opener at Beavers Field.
Pickerington, which received one of four first-round byes in the 12-team double-elimination tournament, then beat Worthington 9-2 later in the day at Lancaster High School.
"We didn't play real focused or real relaxed in the first part of the game, but we closed pretty well," said Pickerington coach Chris Weber, whose team advanced to a winners' bracket semifinal on July 26. "I think the two-plus hours off in the middle of the game allowed us to relax and just play ball. It's baseball and we just needed to play and have fun and not think about this being the state tournament."
In the Pickerington-Worthington game, the score was tied at 2 in the fifth inning when rain suspended play and the teams were free to leave while the field was being worked on.
"We let the players go eat and do their thing and we didn't talk to them about baseball," Weber said. "We wanted them to loosen up a bit and it worked."
Kyle Chontos, Colt Turley and Tony Winters had run-scoring hits in a five-run seventh inning, and Pickerington added two runs in the top of the ninth.
Pickerington, which improved to 38-3, beat Worthington 5-0 in a regular-season meeting June 24.
"The score may not reflect it, but we were very competitive against a very good Pickerington team today and that was not the case in the 5-0 loss," said Worthington assistant coach Chris Olson, who guided the team July 25 as coach Jim Townsend had a previous engagement. "Our guys battled all day today and we've built some confidence."
Chontos broke the tie with an RBI single in the seventh and Turley followed with a triple to right-center field. After Worthington starter Alio Gasbarro hit Matt Connor with a pitch, Scott Pancoast squeezed home a run and was safe on a fielder's choice. Winters added an RBI single and Pancoast stole home on the back end of a double steal.
In the ninth, Connor doubled off reliever Andy Bean and scored on a triple by Pancoast. Winters then had an RBI groundout.
Pickerington started strong, opening the game with consecutive doubles by Isac Franklin and Joe Matalon for a 1-0 lead. Worthington took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Eurich hit a two-out, two-run double, but Post 239 managed just four hits off Pickerington starter Rob Sexton and reliever Zach Beaver.
Turley's RBI single tied the game in the fifth inning before a two-and-a-half hour rain delay. Beaver relieved Sexton after the rain delay.
"I felt pretty good coming off vacation the last week," Beaver said. "My arm was rested. One run still leaves you still feeling a little queasy, but when you put up five (runs in the seventh) it helps you to relax and do your job."
Worthington, which went 1-2 at state last season, appeared on the verge of losing by run-rule in its first game, trailing 7-0 after four innings.
Instead, Eurich's home run touched off a celebration and gave Worthington momentum and confidence heading into its game against Pickerington, which had the best record in the tournament field.
"When it left the bat, I thought it was going to be caught," Eurich said. "But then it kept carrying and I thought it was going to land in front of the fence and I had to run hard because I was the winning run. Then I saw it hit the top of the fence and bounce over. That was just a tremendous feeling."
Coshocton starter Thomas Ellis limited Worthington to five hits through seven innings. But Post 239 produced five consecutive hits to begin the eighth.
Mark Zuccaro singled and Will Meador tripled to right-center field to chase Ellis. Bean greeted reliever Michael Adams with an RBI double and Sam Adams lined a home run to left-center field. David Lykens then singled and Eurich walked before a groundout by Collin Finn scored Lykens to make it 7-5.
Coshocton, making its first appearance at state since 1976, stretched its lead to 9-5 in the top of the ninth off Sean Hoy, who relieved starter Cody Strayer in the eighth.
"It's a mental game and one of momentum," Olson said. "We made some base-running mistakes early, but our goal was just to knock their starter out. We kept battling and made that happen and we got the momentum we needed. Dan Eurich was the right guy to have in that spot. He hit home runs on consecutive at-bats in the district tournament."
Zuccaro led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk. Meador and Bean both singled to load the bases and Sam Adams hit a two-run single to center to make it 9-7. Lykens added a sacrifice fly, scoring Bean and setting the stage for Eurich's home run.