PLYMOUTH — Plymouth Post 27 looked to be cruising to an opening-round victory over Kokomo Post 6 in the American Legion state finals, but suffered a gut-wrenching 9-7 loss Monday night thanks to a walk-off two-run homer.
Post 27 entered the final frame holding on to a 7-5 lead as pitcher Clayton Adamson looked to record the save.
However, Kokomo’s S.A. Dunn led off with a single and Tyler Goudy followed with a walk. The pair pulled off a double steal and when the next batter, Evan Warden singled to left, the game was tied. Goudy was going to be held at third, but trotted home after left fielder Brandon LaFollette had trouble picking up the ball.
Next up was Isaac Turner, who promptly ended the game by crushing an Adamson fastball over the leftfield fence. Turner knew it was gone right away as he tossed his bat and somewhat admired his game-winning shot as the Kokomo dugout spilled out onto the field to congratulate the center fielder when he touched home plate. At the same time, Post 27 was stunned, wondering what just happened.
“You’re three outs away and statistically we’ve got our best pitcher on the mound, who shut them down last time (in a win on Thursday),” Post 27 manager Will Hostrawser said. “He got ahead 0-2 on that first hitter and kind of lost command. That kind of set the tone. He got a base hit up the middle.
“Then there two through five hitters pretty much did all their damage.”
Turner had a phenomenal game. He drove in six of his team’s nine runs, homered twice and tripled, reaching base in four of his five plate appearances.
Post 27 jumped on Kokomo early thanks to a couple of errors in the top of the second.
The left side of Kokomo’s infield let starting pitcher Austin Weaver down by committing back-to-back errors with one out in the second. That helped Post 27 plate four. Catcher Peter Shepherd picked up an RBI single and shortstop Tanner Hampton was credited with two knocked in on his single.
“We took advantage of their errors early and hung some on them and they didn’t really recover until late,” Hostrawser said. “You have to take advantage of errors when a team gives you those.”
The Diamond Spyders made it 6-0 in the top of the fourth when LaFollette doubled home Shepherd and Drew McDonald.
Kokomo got on the board with Turner’s two-run shot in the bottom of the frame.
Post 27 increased its lead to 7-2 when Shepherd doubled home Nick Pritz in the top of the fifth.
Shepherd was the hitting star for the Diamond Spyders. He reached base all four times he came to the plate and finished with three hits and two RBI.
“We were saying he’s having a season in a day,” said Hostrawser about his catcher’s night at the plate. “He did a very nice job and really came to play.”
However, Weaver settled down and really got into a rhythm. Over the next four innings, he allowed just one hit and no runs while his pitch count eclipsed 120.
Meanwhile, Weaver’s Kokomo team chipped away.
It looked like Kokomo would have a big bottom of the seventh when relief pitcher Justin Gierlowski struggled with his control and walked the bases loaded without recording an out. To Gierlowski’s credit, though, he got the next batter to pop out on the infield, gave up a sacrifice fly to the next batter and ended the threat with strike out.
Post 27 exited the frame feeling good about its chances still leading 7-3.
“Unfortunately I don’t think Gierlowski was quite ready when he came into the ball game,” Hostrawser said, “and that cost us a run or two.
“Once he got his curveball working and his off-speed stuff, he was pretty dangerous. He just didn’t have his command on his fastball. He’s usually a lot sharper than that.”
Kokomo added two more in the seventh on Turner’s triple, setting up his heroics in the ninth.
Turner’s triple came after center fielder Eric Knepper tried to make a diving catch. The outstretched Knepper came up short and ball rolled past him.
“You kind of want to keep that ball in front (of you), but I’ll tell you what, he’s such an aggressive player and has great speed and if he knocks that down, the ball gets in quicker,” Hostrawser said.
Brayden Davidson started on the hill for Post 27 and did an admirable job. He went five innings, giving up three runs on four hits.
“I thought Brayden threw well,” Hostrawser said. “He gets to a certain pitch count and always tapers off so we made the move and went to Gierlowski.”
The loss drops Post 27 into the losers’ bracket, which means it will play Mishawaka Post 161 at 12:30 p.m. today. Kokomo advances to play Newburgh Post 44 at 7:30 p.m. tonight.
“We will see what we’re made of against Mishawaka, a team that beat us in the regional,” Hostrawser said. “We’re going to have to put this loss on the shelf, learn from it and be ready to go.”
• KOKOMO POST 6 9,
PLYMOUTH POST 27 7
At Plymouth’s Bill Nixon Field
Plymouth: 040 210 000 — 7 9 1
Kokomo: 000 201 204 — 9 9 2
WP: Austin Weaver; LP: Clayton Adamson 2B: Brandon LaFollette (P), Peter Shepherd (P); 3B Isaac Turner (K), Justin Blevens (K); HR Isaac Turner, 2 (K).