MATTOON — The Mattoon Post 88 Senior Legion baseball team almost put away its game against Cumberland County in the second inning as Post 88 scored six runs to jump out to a 7-0 lead.
Cumberland County was able to hang around and Post 88 was held to two runs the rest of the way. Still, Post 88 was able to hold off Cumberland County to pick up a 9-6 win to improve to 19-10-1 on the season.
“We got a couple of guys in for their last time on this diamond. We hit the ball a little bit tonight, which we’ve been working on to get a focused approach on getting some balls in play,” Post 88 coach Stacey Birdsong said. “Move runners over, limit strikeouts, it was good to see us do that early.”
It was the last game at Grimes Field for Post 88’s Garrette Branson, Cayden Collings, Brock Moncel, Gibson Moncel and team manager Deacon Letner, who are all graduating.
“A lot of guys that do a lot of things for us. They do a great job for us and it was fun to give them some different opportunities, Garrette to play second and Gibby to get a couple of base hits,” Birdsong said. “I am proud of them, love the effort. They had fun and I heard the comment that we had our fun for the year and now we focus.
“I am grateful to the parents of all of the kids, the guys who help out in the press box, the paper and Lane Blickem with the radio as we get through another home season. Those are the things I appreciate because it promotes our kids. The parents have been wonderful as usual and the kids are great.”
Cumberland falls to 5-16 on the season and one bad inning put them in a big hole. Cumberland pitcher Evan Fritcher was pulled in the second inning to keep him healthy and Mattoon took advantage.
“That’s been how it’s been all season long for us, one inning every game and the rest of the game we outscored them. Just that one inning,” Cumberland coach Adam Stults said. “Even so, we are still getting him healthy. He hasn’t fully recovered from the sectional game yet. Just trying to get him some pitches so he can maybe relieve during districts.”
Post 88 took an early lead. Jacob Spitz led off the first inning with a single and went to third on Cayden Collings’ single. Garrette Branson followed with a sacrifice fly to centerfield to score Spitz for a 1-0 lead.
Post 88 drew three straight walks to start the second, and then Spitz drove in two runs with a double. Collings followed with a ground ball that scored a run. Branson drove in his second run of the game with a single. After an error, Gibson Moncel singled up the middle to score a run, and then Gunner Laughhunn followed with a double to bring in another run as Post 88 took a 7-0 lead.
Branson led off the fourth with a single, and Brock Moncel doubled to score a run for an 8-0 lead.
Cumberland led off the fifth inning with back-to-back singles by Christian Kessler and Kyle Sanders. Cumberland loaded the bases and scored a run on an RBI single by Reid Mathenia. Caleb Hill was hit by a pitch to bring in a run and Isaac Kramer drew a walk to make it 8-3.
In the sixth inning, Branson led off with a triple off the centerfield fence. Brock Moncel brought the run in with a sacrifice fly to center to make it 9-3.
Cumberland loaded the bases in the seventh inning. Justin Brown scored on catcher’s interference and then Mathenia scored on a sacrifice fly by Evan Fritcher. Kessler followed with an RBI single. Cumberland got the tying run to the plate but Post 88 got the final out to get the 9-6 win.
Stults likes how his team bounced back.
“They’ve really started to pick that up the last couple of weeks. Beginning of the season, they hung their heads. We were outhitting teams but losing,” Stults said. “Last couple of weeks, we’ve tried to instill some of the Neoga mentality that you are never out of a game, and it’s starting to work.”
Post 88 goes to a tournament in Rantoul this weekend before they start District play next week in Lincoln.
Birdsong is looking to see his team compete this weekend.
“Get the offense going and let’s get something going this weekend and roll that into the districts offensively,” Birdsong said. “Our pitching and defense has been solid all year. I don’t expect that to change hopefully. Get good, competitive baseball games this weekend.”