TERRE HAUTE —
Turnabout seemed only fair, the American Legion baseball players from Sullivan Post 139 must have figured Saturday.
Less than 24 hours after being victimized by a 19-batter, 15-run inning against Wayne Newton Post 346, Sullivan turned around in the bottom of the second inning Saturday and sent 18 batters to the plate, scoring 12 times despite leaving the bases loaded, and emerged with a 19-9 win over Washington’s Freedom Post 120.
Its reward is a 1 p.m. sectional championship round today against the host team, with Terre Haute needing one victory to advance to next week’s regional — also at Terre Haute North’s Don Jennings Field — and Sullivan needing to win twice.
“Getting a 10-run win is a lot better than getting beat 22-0 [Friday’s score], that’s for sure,” said Sullivan shortstop Cam Kuppler after Saturday’s game. “It will be hard to beat [Post 346] two games, but we’ve got to come at ‘em with what we’ve got.”
“It’s always nice to be on the other side of a long inning like that,” agreed Sullivan manager Craig Klitz.
The game started poorly for Sullivan when it gave up two gift runs in the top of the first inning — a two-out third strike in the dirt thrown to the wrong base, followed by an RBI double by Trevor Claridge.
But in the bottom of the second, Bryce Bement led off with a single and Jacob Hauger walked. Kuppler placed a bunt so perfectly that no one bothered to field it, loading the bases, and then the carnage began — five more hits, four more walks, back-to-back hit batsmen with the bases loaded, two errors. To make matters worse, Washington second baseman Bryce Wilz suffered an injury diving for one of those hits, depleting the Post 120 bench.
Kuppler fielded a grounder to start a double play in the top of the fourth, limiting the damage in an inning that included two hits, two walks and a hit batter, and Sullivan went up 15-3 in the bottom of that inning on a run-scoring single by Brock Dowell and a two-run triple by Tanner Butler.
An unearned run in the sixth brought Washington closer, but Sullivan was still within an out of ending the game in the top of the seventh. But Brandon Bohnert kept Freedom Post alive with a two-out double that cut the lead to 15-6 and Mac Osborne drove in another run before the inning ended. Four of Sullivan’s nine — yes, nine — errors in the top of the eighth had Washington within 15-9 with two runners on base when the inning ended.
Any hopes of a comeback for Washington ended immediately. Sullivan got the four runs needed for a 10-run decision in the bottom of the inning with six walks and Nolan Kinnett’s game-ending single, the fourth RBI of the game for Kinnett.
“A couple bad innings,” manager Jeff Truelove of Washington said afterward. “We let ‘em get too big a lead early.”
Truelove was happy that his first-year team had come back to make the game relatively interesting.
“They’re battlers; I was glad to see that,” he said. “We’ll take a little momentum from this into next year … I’ve already had a lot of kids call about playing [for Post 120] next summer.”
Post 139 has had teams off and on for more than 35 years, but this year’s is another first-year resumption of the program — and achieved a milestone of sorts.
“To come up here and get two wins is probably more than anybody thought we were going to do,” Klitz admitted. “I’m proud of the kids and what they’ve been able to accomplish.”