First-inning offense continued to be a strength for Wayne Newton Post 346 on Friday, and the expected bounce-back from the previous day's near no-hitter came through in a big way.
But that wasn't nearly enough good news for the Terre Haute team, which couldn't hold a pair of early leads against Swoyersville (Pa.) Post 644 and lost 14-4 in six innings in an elimination game of the Great Lakes Regional for American Legion baseball.
"I scouted these teams [Swoyersville and Beverly-Lowell, Ohio, which beat Post 346 10-2 on Thursday]," Terre Haute manager Tim Hayes said afterward, "and they both had their best games against us — and I didn't think we pitched that bad."
For the third straight regional game, Post 346 jumped out on top in its first at-bat. It quadrupled its hit total from the previous day with its first five batters — singles by Cole Whitlock, Garrett Loyed, Tristan Elder and Ryan Brown, with Elder's hit and Adam Craig's grounder driving in runs.
And for the second straight game, the Terre Haute lead lasted only until its opponent came to the plate. A two-run homer by Swoyersville pitcher Patrick Adamski tied the score in the bottom of the inning.
Post 346 kept the offensive pressure on, however, and Elder seemed to settle in on the mound. He struck out four in one six-batter stretch of the second and third innings, and the Pennsylvania defense got a little generous when Terre Haute came to the plate in the top of the fourth with the score still tied 2-2.
Dillon Kinnett led off with a vicious one-hop smash toward shortstop; Danny Gibbons wanted no part of it, flinching away while deflecting it with his glove, and Kinnett hustled all the way to third with a leadoff triple. Evan Newman followed with an RBI single and Terre Haute led 3-2.
With one out, Whitlock grounded up the middle and was credited with an infield hit when second baseman Garrett Vought couldn't get the ball out of his glove cleanly while attempting to force Newman at second. Loyed followed with a grounder in almost the same place, and this time Vought's toss to Gibbons pulled the shortstop off the bag and the bases were loaded. Craig's line drive to left went for a sacrifice fly, and Elder hit the ball almost to the fence for the third out. It was 4-2 and Terre Haute already had 10 hits.
And that was pretty much the end of the highlights.
Michael Kane led off the bottom of the inning with an opposite-field single to right, and Colin Conway followed with a soft line drive to center. Craig appeared to hurt himself trying to field the ball, which went for a double, and Tommy Federici hit a grounder that trickled off the glove of a diving Kinnett and went for a run-scoring infield hit.
Now the Pennsylvania team was fired up. A run-scoring double, an RBI ground out and another run-scoring double put Swoyersville ahead 6-4, a hit and an outfield error added another run, and two more came in on a fumbled grounder that never got to the infield dirt.
Trailing 9-4, Post 346's rally chances came up short in the top of the fifth when Ryan Brown was robbed of a hit ahead of singles by Kinnett and Newman. Swoyersville got four more runs in the bottom of the fifth and ended the game early with an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth.
"You're playing everybody's state champion," Hayes philosophized afterward, "and today [Post 644] hit the ball like they were state champions."
Post 346 had one of its best offensive days in quite a while, with 13 hits — two each by Whitlock, Loyed, Elder, Brown and Kinnett and three by Newman.
"I'm proud of the way we hit," Hayes concluded. "[Pennsylvania] just hit it better. Hat's off to them."
"It's never fun to lose," said Whitlock, who hugged almost everyone on the field when he was relieved on the mound in the bottom of the fifth, "but sometimes the ball doesn't go your way. We stuck in there and tried to battle, but it just wasn't our weekend."
"Obviously it didn't end the way we wanted," said Newman, "but we came together as a team this summer. I made brothers, not just friends. I'll remember this season the rest of my life."
Kinnett, who was injured throughout the season but who returned to hit approximately .500 during the tournament run, agreed.
"I'm definitely never gonna forget it," he said. "Being able to come and watch these guys compete . . . I wouldn't miss it for the world. Brothers for life."
His success during the state tournament and Great Lakes Regional alleviated some of his pain, Kinnett added.
"I was definitely happy to be back," he said, "but I didn't expect to come back that way."
"I think we had a really good season," Whitlock summarized. "We won the John Hayes [Best of the Midwest Tournament] for the first time, we won the tournament at Missouri, we won the regional, we won the state . . . I thought we did a good job."
• Unavailable — Post 346 was without Caleb Gonser, one of its leading hitters, for the last two games because of a health issue.
TERRE HAUTE WAYNE NEWTON POST 346 (AB-R-H-RBI) — Whitlock lf-p 3-1-2-0, Vrabic p 0-0-0-0, Loyed c 4-1-2-0, Craig cf 3-0-0-2, Elder p-rf 4-0-2-1, Brown 1b 4-0-2-0, Reed 3b 3-0-0-0, Kinnett 2b 3-1-2-0, Newman rf-lf 3-1-3-1, Moore ss 3-0-0-0. Totals 30-4-13-4.
SWOYERSVILLE POST 644 (AB-R-H-RBI) — Vought 2b 4-2-2-1, Cooley-Ruff cf-p 3-3-2-1, Adamski p-3b 4-2-2-4, O'Kane lf-cf 4-1-1-2, Kane 1b 4-1-1-0, Conway rf 3-2-1-0, Federici 3b-lf 3-1-1-1, Banas c 3-1-2-1, Gibbons ss 2-1-1-2. Totals 30-14-13-12.
None out when game ended by 10-run rule.
E — Vought, Newman, Moore 2. DP — Swoyersville 1. LOB — TH 10, Swoyersville 7. 2B — Newman, Banas 2, Conway, Vought, Adamski. 3B — Kinnett. HR — Adamski. SB — Cooley-Ruff. SF — Craig.
Elder (L)=3 1/3=8=7=7=1=5
Vrabic faced 4 batters in the 6th.
HBP — by Vrabic (Federici), by Vrabic (Banas). PB — Loyed. Bk —Adamski. T — 1:58.
Next — Swoyersville (28-5) advanced to today's round against Beverly-Lowell. Wayne Newton Post 346 finished 27-10.