The Ada Post 72 Braves followed a loss Wednesday and a rainout Thursday with a pair of victories Friday that gave the local squad at a chance — albeit a slim one — to win their pool and advance to today’s quarterfinals at the American Wood Bat Invitational in Blue Springs, Mo.
Dalton Pickering turned in his fourth solid start in a row in Friday’s opener as Ada (25-8) beat Post 262 from Weldon Springs, MO, 5-1, and Blake Logan added to his team record with his 15th home run of the season and also got the final two outs on the mound to pace the Braves to an 8-3 win over the Post 1000 Bears from Independence, MO,in their second game Friday.
With the two wins, Ada improved to 2-1 in pool play and played the only unbeaten team in their pool (the “American League East”), the Associated Fire Titans, Saturday night. An Ada victory would tie the Braves with the Titans and Post 237 from Quincy, IL (which beat the Braves but was run-ruled by the Titans) atop the pool, but the Braves had to beat the Titans by 10 runs to win the second tiebreaker — runs allowed — for the right to join the seven other pool winners in the 40-team tournament in the next round.
Thursday’s rain forced the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game to all be played today, beginning at 10 a.m.
Ada Braves, 5, Post 262 1
Pickering (4-1) allowed just three hits and struck out eight before handing off to Dylan Tinkler to start the seventh inning. Tinkler struck out the side (all looking) to seal the victory.
“(Pickering) is pitching well right now,” Post 72 coach Travis Graham said of Pickering, who struggled in relief early in the season but has found a home as a starter. “If we’re going to have any success at the state tournament, he’s going to have to be part of that.”
Tupelo’s Brandon Maggia had three of the Braves’ 10 hits and drove in three of his team’s five runs. He plated Logan (who had doubled) with a sacrifice fly in the third inning to make it 3-0 — one batter after Ada shortstop Matt Johnson had leveled Post 262 catcher D. J. Fielder in a violent collision at the plate while trying to score on Logan’s double. Maggia singled home Johnson in the fifth and capped off his third three-hit game in six days with his third home run of the season in the seventh.
Maggia’s double was also the only hit in the second inning, when Ada scored its second run on a bases-loaded walk to Jake Sanders. The Braves had taken a 1-0 lead in the first on Hunter Marcum’s leadoff double, Sanders’ fly ball to right and Tinkler’s RBI groundout.
Logan finished 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles in the victory.
Ada Braves 8, Post 1000 Bears 3
Roff’s Jordan Scott turned his best starting effort of the season. He walked five but allowed just two hits in six-plus inning to improve to 4-0 with seventh-inning help from Logan.
The Braves, who finished with nine hits, scored runs in five of their six at-bats. They built a 4-0 lead after three innings, answered a two-run outburst by the Bears in the top of the fourth with a two-spot of their own in the bottom of the inning and put the game away with two more runs in the sixth.
Marcum singled and Sanders walked leading off the first inning, and both scored on Tinkler’s triple to make it 2-0. Moses Isham reached on one of three Bears errors in the game leading off the second and scored on Marcum’s groundout to extend the lead to 3-0, and Tanner Bell led off the third with an error and scored when Logan’s swinging third strike got past Post 1000 catcher Jake Oliver.
Sanders singled leading off the fourth and Tinkler also singled with one out, and both scored on passed balls later in the inning. Logan wrapped up the scoring for the Braves in the sixth, smashing a no-doubt home run to left-center to also score Josiah Nyberg, who had reached on an error.
“We need to eliminate the walks, but we were pretty solid defensively,” Graham said after seeing his club bounce back from a mistake-filled loss on Wednesday to commit just one error Friday. “We had to make some adjustments after that first game with the wood bats, but we’ve hit the ball pretty well since then.”
Tinkler and Cody Robinson each had two of Ada’s nine hits against the Bears.