August 12 - Vienna Post 180 came up just short of earning its first American Legion World Series berth.
The Virginia state champions entered the day riding a 16-game winning streak, averaging 11.9 runs per game this summer and needing one victory over the host team, Randolph County (N.C.) Post 45, to claim the double-elimination Mid-Atlantic Regional. Post 180’s bats, however, fell silent as it dropped 3-0 and 3-2 decisions at McCrary Park in Asheboro, N.C.
The losses end a record-breaking season for Vienna (36-4), which repeated as state champions and set a single-season mark for victories. Randolph County (36-10) qualifies for the World Series for the third straight year.
“This week we hit well up until the championship,” said Vienna’s second baseman, Ryan Dooley, a rising senior at South Lakes who has committed to play at the Virginia Military Institute. “We had a good amount of hard-hit outs because Randolph had a shift on almost every batter and it worked in big situations. When we had opportunities to score runs, we didn’t execute the way we usually do.”
Added Eric Lingebach, an Oakton grad who is transferring in to play at Christopher Newport. “It didn’t end how we would have liked. But, all-in-all, [the season] was a huge success.”
In yesterday’s first game, Post 45 left-hander Trevor Marsh used a variety of off-speed pitches to keep Post 180 hitters off balance.
An incoming freshman outfielder at UNC Wilmington, Marsh needed just 71 pitches in a two-hit shutout, the first time in 92 games that Vienna had been held scoreless. He retired 14 straight after Allen Yager (Oakton) led off the bottom of the first with a single, then set down the final seven Post 180 hitters after a two-out fifth-inning single by Jimmy Clark (Paul VI Catholic). The soft-throwing southpaw induced 14 fly ball outs.
L.A. Rice (Flint Hill) took the loss, surrendering three runs (two earned) on six hits in five innings. Lingebach struck out three with three walks in two scoreless innings.
With the regional championship down to a winner-take-all scenario in the playback game, Vienna was held scoreless by Randolph County’s Braxton Davis through the first three frames. Post 45 rallied for three runs in the fourth inning after reliever Zach Perkins threw what looked to be an inning-ending 1-6-3 double play into center field. The miscue would prove costly.
In the bottom of the fourth, Dooley singled and Avery Neaves (South Lakes) later drove him in with a sacrifice fly. Vienna then drew closer when Luke Erdmann (Madison) scored Neaves on a ground out in the sixth. They’d threaten again in the seventh when Yager and Dooley reached on singles, but reliever Tatum Marsh got Lingebach to ground out and fanned Neaves looking to end the game.
Perkins took the loss after allowing three runs (two earned) in three innings of relief work. Post 180 starter Shane Stiehl (South Lakes) pitched two scoreless frames but was relieved after walking the first two batters in the third. Justin Taylor (Flint Hill) pitched the final two innings.
“Going down to a regional and competing against other state champions was a blast,” said Taylor, a rising Cornell sophomore who struck out eight in four scoreless innings over his three relief outings at the tournament. “Almost every other team had some history of being in the [World Series], so we were a bit overlooked. So it was fun to go out and shock some teams by winning our first four games.”
Notable: Dooley was 3-for-4 in yesterday’s second game and finished 13-for-23 (.565) for the week. He hit .408 with 29 hits in 20 games, most coming after completing his summer campaign with his Marucci Stars travel team … Neaves, one of the hottest hitters over the first four days at the tournament, went 0-for-6 yesterday. He finished the week 8-for-19 and hit .429 with 42 hits, 10 home runs, 45 RBI and a post-record 18 doubles this summer … Lingebach had a quiet week - going 4-for-18 over the six games - after posting big numbers through the regular season. He finished the season hitting .365 with team highs in hits (46), homers (16) and RBI (63), which set a new single-season post record … Perkins and Yager also topped the 40-hit mark. Perkins hit .404 with 12 doubles, four homers and 38 RBI and Yager hit .366 with 10 doubles and 23 RBI.
Quotable: It’s always fun to be apart of something like this when guys from different schools or even rival schools can come together to win ball games and have fun doing it … These guys on the team were dedicated to the grind and dedicated to being there for one another. I believe that’s what separates Post 180 from other Legion teams in our district and in our state.” - Vienna Post 180’s Justin Taylor
Next: Randolph County begin play in the World Series on Thursday in Shelby, N.C. against Shrewsbury (MA) Post 397, the Northeast Region champion. Vienna’s season is complete.
Photos of, clockwise from top left, Allen Yager, Justin Taylor and Ryan Dooley by Joey Kamide