EDWARDSVILLE — For the second year in a row the Metro East Bears played for a Great Lakes Regional championship and for the second year in a row they finished runner-up.
Rockport, Ind. Post 254 completed an undefeated run through the tournament, topping the Bears 4-3 in 11 innings on Sunday at Roy E. Lee Field. Rockport earned a spot in the American Senior Legion World Series in Shelby, N.C. with the win. The World Series begins on Thursday.
Post 254 went 5-0 in the tournament and handed Metro East its only losses in the regional. The Bears went 3-2. With Sunday's victory Rockport improved its overall record to 32-1, while Metro East wrapped up its campaign at 20-8.
It was a tough way to go out, but they gave it their best effort. After being knocked out of the District 22 playoffs, Post 199/126 was idle until the regional, but made plenty of noise in the five-day tournament in Edwardsville.
“It's a tough one,” Jake Garella said. He was the starting pitcher for Metro East Sunday. “We've all had to go through them I think. We'd always like to be at the other end of the spectrum, but we're just going to have to live with it and go on to the next thing in life. We had a lot of good things going with our team, they were great teammates. I wouldn't ask for anyone else. We had great coaches and we have bright futures, all the kids on the team.”
The Bears scratched and clawed on Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning and then having to draw even at 2-2 after seven innings. They made it interesting in extras. After falling behind 4-2 in the top of the 11th, they pushed it to 4-3 in the home half of the inning, which was ultimately the final.
“We had some opportunities early on and if we got a key hit it might have changed it,” Post 199/126 manager Ken Schaake said. “We had second and third (in the ninth) and we debated pinch hitting for (Devin) Colley (who pitched five innings of relief) which might have been the smarter move, but I also had the best hitter I had in the tournament (Stephen Pattan) coming up. I thought I looked like a genius when they went 3-0 on him, but then he strikes out and Pattan hits one in the hole that he looked like he was going to beat out and he didn't make it.”
On the other side of the diamond, Rockport starter Jesse Stallings supplied a superb performance, throwing 173 pitches over 10.2 innings. Manager Jim Haaff raved about Stallings after the game.
“Even though he gave up the three runs he hung in there,” Haaff said. “He pitched out of a big situation in the ninth inning and did a really nice job. We left him a little longer than we normally do, but it's winding down to the end of the year and he ought to be in the best shape he's been in, so consequently he wanted to stay and we let him stay.
“Then we played good defense again today. Our shortstop (Kobe Stephens) made three or four outstanding plays for us again. He's been quite a player in our program for four years.”
Corey Ebelhar came on to get the final out in the 11th. He was four for four in save chances in the regional, earning him tournament MVP honors.
Metro East's Drake Hampton didn't think Stallings did anything special to befuddle the Bears, but gave him props on his performance.
“We were all talking and we didn't see anything special about him, but obviously there was,” Hampton said. “He shut us down and threw a great game and we just couldn't figure it out soon enough.”
Post 199/126 staked itself to an early lead in the game. Cole Cimarolli kicked things off with a single and advanced to second on wild pitch. He moved to third on a ground out and scored on a two-out single by Hampton to catapult the Bears in front 1-0.
That's the way it stayed until the third when Rockport knotted it at 1-1. Trevor Zink stroked an RBI double off of Garella to score Stephens, who walked to start the inning.
Post 254 struck again in the sixth. This time Gant Miller hit an RBI double to propel Rockport ahead 2-1.
Metro East drew even at 2-2 in the seventh when Mitchell Krebs and Tyler Stamer banged out back-to-back doubles with Krebs scoring on Stamer's knock.
The Bears put runners at second and third in the ninth with one out. Stamer singled and Chance Foss doubled to left, but Metro East was unable to get either home.
Rockport grabbed a 4-2 lead in the 11th, taking advantage of a pair of Metro East errors. The Bears had four miscues in the game.
“We couldn't handle a couple of bunt plays in the 11th, but they didn't quit,” Schaake said. “This was a group that always had each other's backs.”
In the home half of the 11th, Foss coaxed a two-out walk and pinch hitter Jacob Kanallakan singled to move him to third and Pattan drove him home with a single to cut it to 4-3, but that's the way it ended.
It was the second and final season for Post 199/126 playing host to the Great Lakes Regional. It moves to Toledo, Ohio next year.
GREAT LAKES REGIONAL
ROCKPORT 4, METRO EAST BEARS 3, 11 INNINGS
ROCKPORT 001 001 000 02 — 4 7 0
METRO EAST 100 000 100 01 — 3 12 4
Metro East (20-8) — Cole Cimarolli 1-6, Collin Clayton 1-5, Jake Garella 2-5, Drake Hampton 1-5 RBI SB, Mitchell Krebs 1-4 2B HBP, Tyler Stamer 2-5 2B RBI, Chance Foss 2-4 2B BB SB, Jacob Kanallakan 1-1, Stephen Pattan 1-5 RBI.
LP — Devin Colley 5.0IP 2H 2R 0ER 2BB 2K 1HBP
Garella 6.0IP 5H 2R 2ER 4BB 5K
Rockport (32-1) — Kobe Stephens 1-5 BB, Trever Zink 2-5 2B HBP 2 RBIs, Spencer Deom 0-4 BB SAC RBI, Jakob Shuler 0-3 3 BBs, Sammy Rowan 0-5 BB, Chad Meyer 1-4, Hunter Rowe 1-5, Gant Miller 1-5 2B RBI, Zach Hopewell 1-4 SAC.
WP — Jesse Stallings 10.2IP 12H 3R 3ER 1BB 6K 1HBP
SV — Corey Ebelhar 0.1IP 0H 0R 0ER 0BB 1K