MATTOON, Ill. -- Wayne Newton Post 346 got off to a bit of a slow start in the opening game of the Great Lakes Regional American Legion Tourney on Thursday. However, it was only a matter of time before the team got completely untracked.
Post 346 got one-run pitching from Terre Haute South's AJ Reed and got some timely hits late to score a 7-1 win over Minnesota state champion, Eagan, in Mattoon, Ill.
Eagan hurler, Neal Kunik, was a big reason that the Minnesota squad was able to stay close for much of the game as he struck out 10 Post 346 hitters in the game.
The game remained scoreless over the first two innings as both teams settled into the contest.
In the third inning, Post 346 got on the board as AJ Reed led off the frame by being hit-by-pitch and Michael Eberle followed with a double down the leftfield line to put both runners in scoring position. Parker Fulkerson brought the first run of the game home with an RBI single to center that brought Reed home and moved Eberle to third base. With the chance to add to its lead, Post 346 wasn't able to plate anymore runs as Kunik struck out Doug Collett and Zac Niehaus to escape further damage.
Eagan looked like it was going to attempt a quick rally as rightfielder Charlie Conkel smacked a single to leftfield to lead off the top of the fourth inning. However, Reed got the first out of the inning by forcing John Dorgan to groundout to the mound. Conkel moved to second on the play. Reed then retired Eagan's cleanup hitter, Adam Carl, via strikeout and then sent Alex Johnson packing via another punch out to end the threat.
Reed, who had nine strikeouts in the complete game victory, would allow just four hits all game long. Each of those hits were singles, which didn't allow Eagan to do any quick damage via extra base hits.
Leading off Post 346's fourth inning, Northview's Seth Lunsford rapped a single to leftfield to get things started on a positive note. However, Kunik struck out Andrew Gauer and Lunsford was caught stealing on the play to end the threat.
Reed retired Eagan in order to send the game to the bottom of the fifth with Post 346 clinging to a 1-0 advantage. However, a leadoff single by Tyler Wampler would get things going and he advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch with Reed coming to the plate with 61 RBI this summer to go with a .413 batting average.
Credit Kunik though, he was able to retire Reed for the third consecutive time, this one on a flyout to rightfield. Wampler was able to tag up and move up to third base on the play, which set up Eberle for his first RBI of the game via a single through the left side of the infield to bring home Wampler from third. Kunik then got Fulkerson on an infield pop up and Collett to strikeout to end the frame.
Kunik was tough on Post 346 through most of the game, striking out 10 batters to keep the game close.
The game advanced to the bottom of the eighth with Post 346 still holding on to a 2-0 lead, but the squad was finally able to get some breathing room against Eagan.
Niehaus, a senior-to-be at Northview, drilled a lead off triple to centerfield to start the eighth inning. His Knights' teammate, Lunsford, hit a sacrifice fly deep to centerfield to bring home Niehaus with the third run of the game. Kunik got the second out of the inning by striking out Gauer, but Ohio State-bound, Jacob Hayes, smoked a solo home run to left field. Wampler continued the rally by drawing a walk and Reed finally got untracked with a single to move Wampler along to second and ended Kunik's game on the mound. Brad Walker came on in relief.
Eberle greeted Walker rather rudely by hammering a two-run triple to leftfield to push the lead to 6-0. Fulkerson added an RBI single for a 7-0 lead before Walker was able to retire Collett on a groundout.
Eagan was able to plate its only run of the game in the ninth as Louie LaChapelle led off with a single. A pair of groundouts moved him to third and an infield single by Carl brought home LaChapelle with the lone run for Eagan. Reed got Alex Johnson to ground into a fielder's choice for the game's final out.
In the game, Niehaus was 2-for-4 with a run scored and Lunsford had a 1-for-3 day at the plate with an RBI while catching Reed.
Post 346 will take on Tuscarawas County, Ohio in the winner's bracket game at 4 p.m. today. The Ohio team was a 13-4 winner over Pennridge, PA on Wednesday.
Great Lakes American Legion Regional
At Mattoon, Ill.
2B -- TH (Gauer, Eberle). 3B -- TH (Niehaus, Eberle). HR -- TH (Hayes). CS -- TH (Lunsford). SF -- TH (Lunsford).