The law of averages would have made it tough for the Sandusky American Legion Post 83 baseball squad to replicate its performance from Monday's Region 3 tournament opener.
But Post 83 coach Bobby Palsa knew that even if his team couldn't score 13 runs again, like it did in a 12-run victory over Bucyrus the day before, if he could at least get some solid pitching and play in the field again, it might be enough to push Sandusky into Thursday's championship finals.
That didn't happen.
Sandusky's enigmatic play continued during Tuesday's Region 3 winner's bracket game as all three aspects — hitting, pitching and defense — of its game struggled in a 16-5 run-rule loss to Galion-Mansfield that ended after eight innings at Heidelberg University's Peaceful Valley Complex.
Post 83 (12-17) will square off with Bucyrus today in an elimination game at 5:30 p.m. back at Heidelberg.
Galion (21-8) gets today off and will await the winner of Sandusky-Bucyrus in Thursday's championship finals at 5:30 p.m. at Heidelberg. Should it be necessary, a deciding game would be played at the same time and location on Friday.
“Obviously, we couldn't duplicate that effort today,” Palsa said. “We had some opportunities early in the game to come up with some big hits, but we just didn't have it today.
“I knew it would be tough to score 13 runs again, and I knew it was going to be a tight game,” he added. “It kind of got away from us there at the end. We stopped throwing strikes and the walks piled up.”
Trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning, Post 83 tied the game up when Trey Gluth (Port Clinton) came through with a bases-clearing triple.
Up to that point, Sandusky had four hits and had already stranded seven runners on the base paths.
For the game, Post 83 left a total of 13 base runners.
“We had guys on base and I kept telling the guys, 'We're one hit away from tying this thing up,'” Palsa said. “Unfortunately, that's been the case for us most of the year.”
Galion responded quickly in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to open up a 7-3 advantage. All of the runs came after a botched play at first base where Sandusky fielded a two-out squeeze bunt by Logan Bastin, except it had no one covering the bag for the out.
Ethan Caudill (Seneca East) took the loss, surrendering nine runs (four earned) on 15 hits. He struck out eight batters and walked four.
Caudill gave up only two runs in the second and third innings, though, despite having the bases loaded with no outs in both situations.
“Ethan (Caudill) battled,” Palsa said. “He probably didn't have his best stuff today, but that was a good hitting team. (Galion) hit the ball well. He battled out of some situations, which was big, especially since we didn't play good defense today.”
Austin Hoffman (Perkins) scored on a passed ball in the bottom half of the sixth inning to get Sandusky within 7-4. Quinten Harrington (Perkins) trimmed the deficit to two when he singled home a run three batters later on a hit to left field.
Gluth and Jake Strayer (Bellevue) led all Post 83 bats with two hits each. Thane Walton (Perkins) drew three walks, Hoffman and Luke Fraley (Perkins) walked twice and each scored a run.
“It's do or die now,” Palsa said. “Hopefully, we can put this one behind us and get after it again (today) against Bucyrus. We can still win a championship if we take things one game at a time and concentrate on playing some good baseball the next few days.”