CAROL STREAM – Everything unraveled in the sixth inning of Sunday’s American Legion District 11 championship round for St. Charles Post 342.
Wheaton Post 76 broke open a close game with seven runs in the inning en route to an 11-6 victory at Lee Pfund Stadium, the home field of the Wheaton College baseball team. Post 76, which has adopted the Thunder nickname of Wheaton College sports teams, took advantage of four walks and three St. Charles errors in the frame.
Post 342 manager Dale Wilderspin was thrown out of the game during the rally after protesting the home plate umpire’s earlier ejection of assistant coach John DeMartino.
“From the bench, all we said was call it both ways that way,” Wilderspin said after the game. “[The home plate umpire] blew up. Maybe me getting thrown out of the game didn’t help, but they lost their composure a little bit.”
Wheaton held a 3-2 lead going into the sixth. The Thunder scored one run in the top of the first on a wild pitch by St. Charles starter Collin Peterson, and Ed Norris doubled to drive in two more runs in the fourth.
Post 342 (20-10) got an RBI triple to deep right by Jake Johansmeier in the bottom of the first and scored another run in the fifth on an error.
Both teams had to scramble to fill out their lineups because of missing players, but St. Charles was particularly hurt by the absence of six players, some of whom chose to attend a concert rather than participate in the title game.
“We had people gone and we just had to make do with what we had,” Johansmeier said. “We played a lot of baseball. We played more games [in the tournament] than they did as the higher seed. We had a lot of adversity and we faced it and did the best we could.”
Post 342 played four games in the tournament while Wheaton played only two, benefiting from a forfeit by Lake In The Hills in the winner’s bracket semifinals. Post 342 would have had to beat Wheaton twice on Sunday to win the tournament since the Thunder had not yet lost in the double-elimination event.
“We’re playing shorthanded,” Wilderspin said. “I think the kids gave their all and we’ve got a lot of kids playing out of position. They did the best they could. That’s baseball. It happens that way sometimes. If you’ve got a weak spot somewhere, it seems like the ball will find it.”
Johansmeier admitted some frustration with his teammates who chose not to play in Saturday’s 10-0 loss to Wheaton and Sunday‘s rematch.
“The people that came out here – these people want to win; these people want to play,” he said. “These are my teammates. Teammates that don’t come ... I don’t get it, but that’s life I guess.”
Clayton Schmitt belted a triple to score a pair of runs for St. Charles in the ninth inning and Ben Allison added an RBI single.
Wheaton North product Justin Harrington (5-1) gained the victory on the mound, allowing two unearned runs on five hits in six innings of work. The right-hander struck out seven and walked none.
“He keeps the other teams off balance,” Post 76 manager Jerry Miller said. “He throws a nice change-up and curveball.”
St. Francis graduate Eric Bacon singled and scored three runs for the Thunder, who stayed alive in their quest to reach the Legion World Series.
“We’re always scoring a lot of runs and we’re really deep in pitching,” Bacon said. “I think we can go all the way.”