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Post 83 wins district title, headed back to state

Mark Hazelwood • Jul 18, 2011 at 12:00 AM

Twelve players in the dugout for Sandusky Post 83's played for high school teams in the spring that won 17 games or more.

But despite great regular seasons, many of them didn't win a sectional championship in the spring, and none experienced a district championship.

That changed Sunday in the 5th district championship game against Fremont.

Trailing 2-0 in the fourth inning, Post 83 responded with 11 unanswered runs to beat Fremont 11-2 en route to a trip to the American Legion state tournament, which will begin July 25 in Lancaster. In four games this year against Fremont, Post 83 went 4-0 while outscoring them 51-25.

It's the third trip in four years for Post 83 (31-7), which since 2008 is exactly 100 games above .500 at 131-31, including back-to-back state titles in 2008 and 2009.

"That just says a lot for the area and the kids coming up," Post 83 associate coach Mike Shepherd said of the program's past four seasons. "You can't do it without talent, but it says a lot about Coach (Ray) Neill and the program he runs."

Fremont (23-10) pitcher Jose Leal (Clyde) was dominant in the first three innings, striking out six batters as the game remained scoreless. That included a sequence in the second when Shayne Blevins (Sandusky) doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch with no outs.

Leal, however, responded with three straight strikeouts to retire the side.

"We looked bad. He had us off," Shepherd said of Leal. "He helped us out with quite a few bases, but he's got great stuff. You have to tip your cap to Jose, he's a great pitcher. But I have to tip my cap to my guys for staying in the game and not getting too discouraged."

In the top of the fourth, Fremont gave Leal a 2-0 lead as Brian Mallernee (Oak Harbor) hit an RBI single to score Jeff Roth (Bellevue), while Michael Finch (Norwalk) added an RBI single that scored Mallernee.

A key sequence unfolded in the bottom half of the fourth. Leal had the bases loaded after walking two and hitting a batter, but also had two outs. With Cory Brown (Port Clinton 2010) at the plate, Leal uncorked another wild pitch that allowed Tyler Mees (Perkins) to score and make it a 2-1 game heading into the fifth.

Trey Keegan (Sandusky), who pitched the final 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, said finally scoring was a momentum shift.

"Once we got going, we got our confidence going," he said. "We knew he would throw strikes, but that he'd walk a lot of people as well. You have to take until you get the pitch you can hit and go from there."

In the bottom of the fifth, Post 83 took the lead for good as Keegan walked and advanced to second on another wild pitch. His Sandusky High teammate Brady Smith delivered with a deep RBI triple to dead center that made it a 3-2 game.

Moments later, Smith scored the go-ahead run on a fourth wild pitch by Leal, who threw eight total.

"We just wanted to see pitches because he had been all over the place," Smith said. "I was looking for his fastball because the curve hadn't been there for him in a couple innings at that point. I got the fastball, smashed it to center field and luckily their kid couldn't make a play on it.

"This is going to be great to get the chance to play for state finally. It hasn't sunk in yet."

In the sixth, Mees doubled and advanced to third on a wild pitch. He scored off a sacrifice fly by Logan Shullick (Norwalk) to give 83 a 4-2 lead. Smith drew a bases loaded walk to bring in a fifth run, and Leal's day was done at 5 2/3 innings.

He struck out seven and walked nine, allowing five runs on five hits along with three hit batters and the eight wild pitches.

83 put the game out of reach with a five-run seventh.

Derek Colston (Port Clinton) walked and scored on an RBI single by Mike Drake (Sandusky), who reached base five times in the game. Cory Brown followed two batters later with a two-run triple that made it 8-2. Keegan quickly followed with an RBI single and Seth Bryant (Perkins) added a pinch-hit RBI single to make it a 10-2 advantage.

Keegan added an RBI single in the eighth for the final run.

"We're there," Keegan said. "It's going to be a new feeling for all but one player on our team (Drake). But we're a scrappy little group, and we'll go down there, show our chests and go play."

Post 83 ace Robert Fravel (Port Clinton) was his usual self in improving to 9-1. He went 6 1/3 innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He walked four and struck out one while battling out on the mound in 90-degree heat and humidity.

"The weather was real rough, it wears you down a bit," Fravel said. "But you just have to fight through it. We really strived in being reminded all the time that we didn't make it last year.

"We wanted to make sure we made it, and I wanted to prove the point that I can pitch in a game like this."

After watching his team win four district games and outscoring teams 61-17 (17-4 average), Shepherd, who was a member of the back-to-back state title teams, wants his team to keep a couple things in mind.

"The last two times we had nothing but success, and I want to keep it going," he said. "It's a fun time, a blast. I want the kids to enjoy it, but I want them to stay focused and know we're not done yet.

"We're not happy just getting there, we want to win another one."

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