ALTON — Madison, Wis. Post 501 struck early and made it stick against the Metro East Bears on Thursday.
Post 501 plated three runs in the first inning and went on to prevail 4-0 in the second round of the American Legion Great Lakes Regional Tournament at Lloyd Hopkins Field inside Gordon Moore Park.
The loss dropped the Bears to 28-9 and sent them into the loser's bracket. They face Plover, Wis. at 4 p.m. Friday. Madison improves to 23-7 and battles Midland, Mich. in the showdown of the final two undefeated teams.
Metro East manager Ken Schaake has been through big tournaments before. He knows it won't be easy for his squad and facing adversity is a common theme.
“It's tough,” Schaake said. “These kids did it last week (at state). We lost the first game and had to come back through the loser's bracket to get to the final, so it can be done. But we've got no room for error anymore. It's one and out and backs against the wall and we'll go from there.”
The Bears saw adversity early on Thursday vs. Madison, misplaying a ball in the outfield which led to an RBI triple and ultimately three runs for Post 501. Metro East starter Ben Cusac faced nine batters in the bottom of the first.
“Early on we had a misread ball, which was tough,” Bears' second baseman Mitchell Krebs said, who went 2 for 3 in the game to be the only Metro East hitter with multiple hits. “A hard hit ball right at the center fielder it's pretty tough, but I think we're good.”
It came after designated hitter Aaron Jackson was stranded at third in the top of the first. It became a theme for the Bears as things seemed to go Madison's way instead of Metro East's. Ultimately the Bears stranded seven base runners, but only had two runners on at the same time in the seventh. Madison outhit Metro East 11-6 in the game.
“Other than that first inning we played pretty well,” Schaake said. “Cusac settled in unfortunately we just didn't come up with the big hit. We got a leadoff double, we had a couple guys on, we just couldn't get them across.
“You're not going to win a game if you don't score. I'd have been a lot more concerned if they were not making contact and popping the ball up, but they hit the ball hard. The center fielder made a couple nice plays, the left fielder went back and made a play, the right fielder got a lot, they made plays all over the field.”
Post 501 got a solid performance from starter Tyler Fischer. Fischer went the distance, scattering six hits, walking two and fanning six.
Fischer said he and his teammates new the Bears would be a challenge and they were up for it.
“Oh yeah, we never overlook our opponents,” Fischer said. “We know that they have a lot of firepower.”
On the other side, the Metro East starter Cusac seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. Cusac went 6.1 innings, fanning two and walking two while scattering 11 hits and surrendering four runs. Kory Loew entered in relief to toss the final 1.2 innings, allowing one hit, one walk and striking out one.
“(Cusac) kept us in the ball game,” Schaake said. “That first inning he should have been out of there, unfortunately we make a misplay and it hurt us. It stunned us pretty hard, but other than that Ben pitched really well.”
Four times the Bears got the leadoff hitter on base but couldn't push him across.
Krebs had a single in the third inning, but was left at third. In the seventh a leadoff walk to Maverick McSparin, followed by a one-out hit by Nick Paulda saw two stranded. Anthony Kindle smacked a leadoff double in the eighth and was left on base and a walk to McSparin to start the ninth saw him stuck on third to end the game.
Madison's fourth run came in the fourth inning after leadoff hitter Kian O'Brien was hit by a pitch. Chris Herbst drove him in with a one-out RBI hit.
Defensively Metro East held up well in the game. Center fielder Matthew Zielonko made up for his misjudged fly in the first by sprawling out for an inning-ending catch in the fourth, while left fielder Connor Melton ended the eighth by catching a fly ball and gunning down a runner at the plate for a double play.
Krebs believes he and his teammates can handle the adversity they will face on Friday. He expects the Bears to rise to the occasion.
“We've got to come tomorrow and the rest of the tournament with a chip on our shoulder and I think every man in this dugout can handle it,” Krebs said. “We're still in it and everybody is experienced so I think we're in a good position still.”
MADISON, WIS. POST 501 4, METRO EAST 0
Great Lakes Regional
Bears 000 000 000 — 0 6 1
Madison 300 100 00X — 4 11 2
BEARS (28-9) — Aaron Jackson 1-4, Maverick McSparin 0-2 2 BBs, Connor Melton 1-4, Nick Paulda 1-4, Mitchell Krebs 2-3 2B, Anthony Kindle 1-2 2B.
LP — Ben Cusac 6.1IP 11H 4R 4ER 2BB 2K 1HBP
Kory Loew 1.2IP 1H 0R 0ER 1BB 1K
MADISON, WIS. (23-7) — Kian O'Brien 2-4, Sam Schwenn 1-4 SB, Chris Herbst 2-4 3B 2 RBIs, Andrew Pliner 2-4 RBI, Jordan Carlson 1-4, Justus Benson 1-2 2 BBs, Mike Brekke 2-4 RBI, Kigen Mares 0-3 BB, Cole Breuer 1-4.
WP — Tyler Fischer 9.0IP 6H 0R 0ER 2BB 6K