No winner in Legion title game; Margaretville, Walton co-champs
By John Bernhardt
The Walton and Margaretville Junior American Legion baseball teams just couldn’t beat Mother Nature. The two local powers tried for a second time to determine a Delaware League champion, but once again, Mother Nature had other plans. After the Queen of Nature used persistent rains to suspend the championship game last week, the two teams squared off once again last week Tuesday to determine who would be the 2009 kingpins. This time, fickle Mother Nature used darkness to shut down the contest after seven innings with the teams deadlocked at 11-11. After failing to come to declare a champion a second time, it was decided the two teams would reign as co-champions.
A storm of another sort brewed in the pregame. Last week, Margaretville had taken a 3-0 lead after one-half inning when the title game was suspended due to rain. Rules call for suspended games to be picked up at the point of the suspension, but the Walton coach would have none of it. With a hurricane of protests underway, it looked like the contest might not get out of the gates, but wanting to play some baseball, Margaretville agreed to start the whole show over again.
Ironically, the Blue Devils had first at bats and put an identical three-run tally on the scoreboard in their opening at bat. Ian Williams launched a shot, a long line drive double off the snow fence in left center field, to get things going for Post 216. John Fairbairn was hit by a pitch, and Grant Cure walked to load the bases.
Marshall Bouton worked a walk to drive in the game’s first run. Shannon Frano stung a long line drive to center field with Fairbairn tagging up to score. Cure scored on a passed ball later in the inning to plate the third Margaretville run.
The lead didn’t hold for long. Walton had their big bats booming in their half of the opening frame, blasting four consecutive hits, two singles and two doubles, to ignite a five-run outburst.
Margaretville struck back in the second. Cody Fronckowiak led off with a single. After Williams and Fairbairn walked, Grant Cure’s infield ground out drove in a run. Walks and wild pitches helped Post 216 add two more runs to grab a 6-5 advantage.
Walton used some Blue Devil hospitality to take back the lead in the bottom of the second. with one out, three straight walks loaded the bases. Margaretville might have escaped unscathed when a Walton batter skied a high infield pop-up, but the ball was never touched and fell to the ground scoring two runners.
Ian Williams turned in a stellar inning on the hill for Margaretville in the bottom of the third. Williams entered the game with the bases loaded and no outs, but got out of the jam without yielding a run. A base running gaffe helped Post 216 when a Walton runner failed to tag up from third on a long fly out to center. A strike out and second outfield fly averted additional trouble for Margaretville.
Post 216 looked like they might have wrapped things up when they scored five times in the fourth to take an 11-7 lead. Marshall Bouton and Shannon Frano laced run-scoring singles to the outfield in the inning. Walton helped out by loading the bases and hitting a batter to plate another run. A two-out Fronckowiak single completed the scoring explosion, putting Post 216 ahead by four.
Walton chipped away by scoring two runs in the fifth, but Margaretville needed only three outs in the bottom of the last inning to take the title. It was not to be. A base-on-balls and an infield single made things instantly problematic. After the clean-up batter struck out, Walton sent both runners in a hit-and-run. A lined double to right center field plated both runners evening the score at 11-11. Ian Williams struck out the next two batters to end the threat and finish the game in a tie.
In the end, it was probably fitting the game ended in a tie. Both teams allowed 14 free passes to their opponent with Margaretville pitchers walking that number of batters, and Walton’s hurlers walking 10 Margaretville batters and hitting four. Both teams made one error. Walton out hit Post 216, eight to six.
Margaretville coach Rick Funck was satisfied with the outcome. Funck’s squad was playing without their top pitcher, Patrick O’Connell, who is visiting family in Germany. Post 216 showed heart and grit in the finale, and Funck was pleased with his team’s overall play.
Funck is thrilled that 15 of Post 216’s 18-man roster are Margaretville guys playing baseball in the local school program. The Blue Devils’ coach will be returning to coach Legion ball again next spring.