Viking takes second at Lexington tourney

Monday, June 17, 2002
Marshall's Alex Pointer

LEXINGTON -- The major difference between established American Legion baseball programs and the current leader of the Babe Ruth Senior League was made evident Friday during the first game of the round-robin Lexington Legion Tourney.

While Higginsville Post 223 was loaded with some of the best players from several schools -- Santa Fe's Roger Feagan, Austin Rolf and Daniel Boland, Jeff Sims of Sweet Springs and others from the Huskers, Warrensburg and Concordia -- only three players who were starters for the Owls' varsity last spring were on the field for Viking Athletic Goods. In fact, the keystone combo, second baseman Brad Langan and shortstop Eric Gilmore, played golf during the prep season -- still giving a good accounting for themselves on the diamond.

Marshall was further handicapped by the absence of Eric Perkins, Jonathan Durham and Sean McCracken -- attending the University of Missouri football camp -- and Matt Green while on assignment with the Sedalia Legion squad. The outcome was, therefore, predictable: a 10-2, five-inning victory for Higginsville.

Fortunately, Post 223 was the class of the field. Viking came back Saturday with strong pitching performances from southpaws Alex Pointer and Perkins -- plus the torrid hitting of Will Grace, going six for eight with five RBIs -- to beat Braymer, 9-3, and Trenton, 11-6.

Grace cooled off at the plate Sunday, but pitched a tough game, and Marcus Yokeley took up the slack offensively with a game-ending, ninth-inning double to beat Lexington for the second-place trophy, 7-6.

Higginsville 10, Marshall 2

Viking took the early lead with a run in the top of the first inning when Pointer reached on an error and singles by Yokeley and Grace.

Bryan Nolte tripled in a run and scored on Feagan's single in the bottom half of the frame, but Langan's single and an error quickly evened the contest.

Higginsville began pulling away in the bottom of the second. Rolf doubled, Boland singled and a Sims grounder brought in a run. A walk to Greg Hough was followed by Brian Hazzard's two-run single to make it 5-2.

Feagan singled and was driven in by Morgan Humphrey's triple in the third. A hit batter and three errors produced another tally for Post 223 in the fourth.

Humphrey, pitching for the first time this summer, tossed two more scoreless innings -- allowing just a single to Grace. Sims relieved in the fifth, struck out the first two batters on "Oephus" pitches -- hump-backed curves -- and got a pop-up after Gilmore singled.

Higginsville (8-5) finished off the game in the bottom of the fifth. Humphrey singled and Rolf looped a 276-foot homer over the left-field fence. Gilmore took over on the mound, his first pitching appearance since the summer of '99 -- "I'm on a two-and-a-half-year rotation," he quipped -- and was tagged for an unearned run on a pair of two-out errors after getting the first batter.

Marshall 9, Braymer 3

The knuckleball of Braymer Post 117 right-hander Travis Smith held Marshall's hitters in check, but Pointer was up to the challenge -- allowing just five hits and one earned run for his first complete-game victory on the prep varsity level.

Singles by Grace and Langan drove in Viking's only runs until the bottom of the sixth inning. A pair of errors and Jason Rice's single provided Braymer a 2-1 lead in the third. Post 117's other run came in the fourth, when Matt Weaver singled and later scored on the back-end of a one-out double steal.

While Pointer was tossing three scoreless frames to finish the game, allowing only a pair of infield singles, Marshall rallied for six runs in the sixth off reliever Andy Palmisano.

Grace's single and a pair of walks loaded the bases. Durham singled in a run, Pointer knocked in two with a base hit and Yokeley cleared the full sacks with a double -- coming in on Grace's second single of the inning.

T.J. White had two hits for Braymer (4-5) while Grace went four for four -- scoring twice, driving in two runs and stealing a pair of bases -- for Viking.

Marshall 11, Trenton 3

Grace knocked in a run with a first-inning single and Trenton Post 31 trailed the rest of the way.

Singles by Nick Thompson, Pointer and Kiel Lovell started a four-run spree in the top of the third. With the sacks jammed, Grace was plunked, Gilmore walked and Perkins drilled a two-run double down the right-field line.

Trenton came up with three runs on one hit -- Tim Hesselton's one-out single to begin the rally -- three walks and two errors in the bottom of the third to close the margin to 5-3.

Thompson doubled and Pointer singled to begin the fourth, with errors bringing both runners home. However, Marshall returned the favor in the fifth, when a walk and pair boots returned the difference to two runs.

Viking broke the game open in the sixth, scoring four runs on an error and singles by Lovell, Yokeley, Grace, Jason Fann and Thompson. Although base hits by Hesselton, Jarin Gamet and Tim Marsh picked up a run in the fifth, Post 31 (2-16) didn't threaten Perkins -- retiring the last five batters in order, recording his ninth strikeout to end the game.

Marshall 7, Lexington 6

Once again, a late charge saved the day for Marshall -- which scored three times in the bottom of the seventh inning to stay alive and defeated Lexington Post 60 on a walk-away hit for the second time in a week.

Grace blanked Lexington in seven of the nine innings he pitched, and hitless six times -- including the final two frames, in which he recorded five of his 15 strikeouts while retiring the side in order. However, he struggled with his mechanics on a couple of occasions and found himself in a hole.

Back-to-back doubles by Keith Eaton and Lucas Calvert began the bottom of the third. Although Jonathan Durham turned an unassisted double play on Adam Watt's liner to shortstop, a walk, Chris Bertz's triple and a single by Leland Liese made it 3-0.

Yokeley tripled in a run in the fourth, but Viking didn't really get going until hard-throwing right-hander Peter Davenport pulled out due to a sore arm. A walk, a single by Eric Gilmore and Brad Langan's two-run double tied the game in the fifth.

It didn't stay even for long. Jonathan Neer hit a pinch single, Calvert walked and Watt sailed a homer over the left-field fence in the top of the sixth. Reliever Jay Kolster got through the sixth, but was roughed up during Marshall's do-or-die at-bat.

Perkins walked, Durham singled and Matt Roy was hit by pitch to load the bases with one out. Thompson's sacrifice fly brought in a run and Pointer singled to center field to refill the bags. Lovell drilled a game-tying double to left-center, but -- with the winning run on third -- Yokeley was issued an intentional pass and Grace grounded out to third base.

Justin Bregemann took the hill for Post 60 (5-9) in the eighth and got out of a two-on, two-out jam after singles by Gilmore and Langan. He wasn't as fortunate in the ninth. Pointer and Lovell singled to start the set and Yokeley wasted no time finishing matters, bouncing a drive over the center-field fence for a ground-rule double.

Yokeley had three hits and drove in two runs and Pointer, Lovell, Durham, Gilmore and Langan had a pair of hits each for Marshall (7-2) -- which returns to Senior League action Wednesday at Brunswick.

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