TERRE HAUTE —
It’s an interesting dance that Wayne Newton Post 346 and Evansville Pate Post 265 have developed in American Legion baseball’s Terre Haute Invitational, and the last waltz was saved for the host team Sunday.
Terre Haute beat Evansville 6-2 in the championship game, less than 24 hours after Post 265 had beaten Post 346 in the final round-robin game of the tournament.
Neither outcome was terribly surprising.
In the many years of the tournament, two visiting teams have been constants and so has the schedule. Terre Haute opens with Lafayette on Thursday afternoon and plays its fourth and last round-robin game against Evansville on Saturday evening.
The latter two teams don’t always meet for the championship on Sunday afternoon, making their final two tournament games a virtual doubleheader, but it’s not exactly rare for them to do so. And Sunday’s championship outcome marked the second straight year in which the Saturday night winner had finished second to the Saturday night loser.
“The exact opposite of last year,” manager John Hayes of Post 346 confirmed late Sunday afternoon. “You always have a good chance that it will be Evansville Pate and Wayne Newton [in the title game].”
Part of the reason for the two teams reaching the championship game so regularly is pitching depth, and even in each team’s fifth game in four days it appeared for awhile that no one would score Sunday.
Pate finally broke through in the top of the fourth with a pair of runs, Post 346’s lone error making one of them unearned, but the home team more than made up for that in the bottom of the inning.
Cody Brock was hit by a pitch and Preston Tofaute walked to start the inning, and Lane Dransfield’s sacrifice moved both into scoring position. A single by Craig Peters made it 2-1, and the tying run scored on a wild pitch during a walk to Jacob Johnson.
Pete Lannoo broke the tie with his second of three hits, Zach Milam got an RBI when his fielder’s-choice grounder was thrown home too late for a play, and additional runs scored on a single by Sam Wolf and a sacrifice fly by Cody Thornton.
“That one inning we moved the ball pretty good,” Hayes said later, “and the biggest play of the game may have been that bunt by Lane Dransfield.”
T.J. Decker had allowed six hits in his first four innings of work on the mound, but they weren’t exactly line shots; once he went back out with a lead, Pate’s offense was through for the day. Decker allowed just one more hit in the last three innings and was throwing harder at the end of the game — even after more than 100 pitches — than he had at the beginning.
“He’s the kind of kid that if you give him a sniff of victory, he’s going after it,” Hayes said afterward. “He’s a piranha. He smells the blood.”
“I’m just glad we had that big inning,” said Decker. “That helped a lot.
“I felt more comfortable with a lead, and the defense made plays behind me,” he continued. “I feel like my momentum was going at the end — get the win, get us a championship.”
Although it wasn’t quite a perfect weekend for his team, it was a pretty good one, Hayes indicated.
“We made some strides at the plate,” the manager said. “Our baserunning was excellent, and our pitching was really good … if we continue to do those things, we’ll be successful.”
“The team chemistry is starting to come together,” Decker noted. “We’ll get a lot more wins from here.”
Terre Haute 6, Evansville 2
EVANSVILLE PATE POST 265 (AB-R-H-RBI) — Hicks cf 3-0-2-1, Mooney cf 1-0-0-0, Spindler rf 4-0-1-0, Davis 3b 2-0-0-0, Bruner 1b 3-0-1-0, Weatherholt lf 2-1-1-0, Mason dh 3-0-0-0, Royalty p 0-0-0-0, Rzewski p 0-0-0-0, Coffman 2b 3-1-2-1, Murphy c 3-0-0-0, Moore ss 3-0-0-0. Totals 26-2-7-2.
WAYNE NEWTON POST 346 (AB-R-H-RBI) — Johnson ss 3-1-1-0, Lannoo 1b 4-1-3-1, Milam 3b 2-1-0-1, Wolf dh 1-0-1-1, Decker p 0-0-0-0, Thornton rf 2-0-0-1, Brock lf 2-1-0-0, Tofaute c 2-1-0-0, Dransfield cf 2-0-0-0, Peters 2b 3-1-2-1. Totals 21-6-7-5.
Evansville Pate 000 200 0 — 2
Wayne Newton 000 600 x — 6
E — Johnson. DP — EP 1, WN 2. LOB — EP 6, WN 6. 2B — Weatherholt. SB — Peters. CS — Johnson. SH — Murphy, Dransfield. SF — Thornton.
Evansville Pate IP H R ER BB SO
Royalty (L) 3 1/3 2 4 4 4 1
Rzewski 2 2/3 5 2 2 0 2
Wayne Newton IP H R ER BB SO
Decker (W, 2-0) 7 7 2 1 1 6
HBP — by Royalty (Wolf), by Decker (Davis), by Royalty (Wolf), by Royalty (Brock). T — 1:41.
Next — Wayne Newton Post 346 (8-2) plays Tuesday at Washington. Evansville Pate Post 265 is now 5-5.