LANCASTER, Ohio — You can call them the comeback kids.
After all, their latest late-game surge has them somewhere that no local team has been in a dozen years.
The Meigs Post 39 baseball team overcame Lancaster Post 11 with a late rally for the second time in as many days, allowing the Rangers to advance to the Ohio American Legion state baseball tournament on Monday night with a 7-3 victory in the District 8 championship game held at Beavers Field in Fairfield County.
The top-seeded Rangers (16-4) — fresh off an 8-7 win over Post 11 roughly 24 hours earlier — were limited to a single hit through four innings of play, but the hosts managed to keep things within striking distance until Post 11 starter Tyler Wolfe ran out of pitches early in the bottom of the fifth.
Wolfe — who was both dominant and, at times, erratic on the mound — eventually ran into trouble in the fifth as a pair of walks and a Cooper Peters single allowed the Rangers to load the bases with nobody out while facing a 3-1 deficit.
Wolfe — who fanned six, walked eight and hit two batters in four-plus frames of work — had to leave the mound from there as his pitch count reached the maximum allowed, and Post 39 was there waiting to take full advantage of the situation.
The Rangers followed by scoring six runs on three hits and two walks over the remainder of the inning, which turned a two-run deficit into a sizable 7-3 advantage through five complete.
Momentum clearly shifted from there as the Rangers retired the side over the final two frames, allowing the hosts to complete another comeback while securing the first District 8 title for a Meigs County program since Feeney Bennett Post 128 won the same crown back in 2007.
After enduring a winless 2018 campaign, Meigs Post 39 coach Shawn Arnott noted that this season has been the stuff that memories are made of. And, with a state tournament looming on the horizon, the chance to add some more summertime memories is just icing on the cake.
“This is very humbling, especially with it coming against a team with the history and tradition that Lancaster has in American Legion baseball,” Arnott said. “To accomplish this in our second year back, especially after going winless last season, this is just an incredible feeling. Like I said, it’s very humbling … but it is also very rewarding for everyone involved.
“We have kids that enjoy playing baseball and they like being around one another. Everyone has contributed to what we’ve accomplished this year and they are a great group of young men. This is something that we all will remember for a very long time. And, we have another chance to make some more memories.”
Meigs Post 39 benefited from some wildness early on as the hosts left at least two runners stranded on base in each of the first three frames, but there was just nothing to show for it during that span.
Lancaster Post 11, on the other hand, opened up the scoring in the top of the second as a pair of walks, an error and a hit ultimately provided a 2-0 edge.
Zane Mirgon and Nathan Pechar both reached on walks and were at the corners with two away. The guests executed a double steal, and the throw ended up in shallow centerfield as Mirgon came plateward for a 1-0 edge.
With Pechar now at third, Dylan Piko hit a ground ball down the third base line that was backhanded by Coltin Parker. The throw to first wasn’t in time, and Pechar eventually scored after an unsuccessful relay throw to the plate.
The Rangers made their first breakthrough in the bottom of the fourth as Colton Reynolds started things with a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Billy Harmon followed with a one-out double to right-center that plated Reynolds while cutting the deficit in half at 2-1.
Lancaster Post 11, however, essentially received a free run in the top of the fifth as Chaz Dickerson singled, advanced to second on a passed ball and covered the final 180 feet on a pair of wild pitches — which ultimately made it a 3-1 contest.
Brody Jeffers received a leadoff walk to start the bottom of the fifth, then Peters added a single — just the second hit at the time for Post 39 — and Wes Smith walked to load the bases. Smith was also the last batter that Wolfe faced.
Cole Arnott took an 0-2 offering from Fyffe and belted it into left-center for a double, all while allowing Jeffers and Peters to come plateward for a three-all tie.
Reynolds followed with a walk, then Parker delivered a single to centerfield that plated both Smith and Arnott for a 5-3 advantage.
Harmon singled home Reynolds for a 6-3 lead, and Parker eventually scored on a fielder’s choice from Carter Smith — giving the hosts a 7-3 cushion through five complete.
The Rangers outhit Lancaster Post 11 by a slim 5-4 overall mark and also committed three of the four errors in the contest. Meigs Post 39 stranded nine on base, while the guests left six on the bags.
Carter Smith was the winning pitcher of record after allowing one unearned run and one hit over three innings of relief while striking out six.
Wolfe — who walked every leadoff batter he faced through five innings — took the tough-luck loss after surrendering four earned runs and two hits on 102 pitches.
Harmon led the hosts with two hits, followed by Peters, Arnott and Parker with a safety apiece. Both Harmon and Arnott also drove in two RBIs each.
Piko, Dickerson, Mirgon and Pechar each had a hit for Lancaster Post 11.
Meigs Post 39 scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh of its first contest against Lancaster Post 11 on Sunday to pull off an 8-7 come-from-behind triumph. The Rangers also went a perfect 3-0 in District 8 tournament play.
The American Legion state baseball tournament will be played at Beavers Field, with Post 39 scheduled to play its opening round game at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 31.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.