LANCASTER, Ohio — Sometimes the journey is far more rewarding than reaching the final destination.
The Meigs Post 39 baseball team had its magical 2019 campaign come to a close on Friday afternoon following a heartbreaking 3-2 setback to Sidney Post 217 in a loser’s bracket quarterfinal contest at the Ohio American Legion state tournament being held at Beavers Field in Fairfield County.
The Rangers (18-6) found themselves in an early hole after Post 217 plated a run in the top half of the first, but the hosts managed to stay within striking distance entering the bottom of the third — which ultimately resulted in the only offense that Post 39 produced.
With two away and runners on first and second, Brody Jeffers lined a double into centerfield that allowed both Billy Harmon and Briar Wolfe to come plateward — giving the Rangers a 2-1 advantage through three complete.
After grounding into an inning-ending double play in the sixth, Sidney Post 217 was down to its final two outs in the seventh … when the big break came.
Kyle Noble took a five-pitch walk with one away, then moved to third on a Kurt Rutschilling double to right-center. Noble later scored on a Bryce Kennedy groundout to second, tying the contest at two-all.
Jared Siegle then drove a 1-2 offering into the right-centerfield gap for a single, allowing Rutschilling to come plateward for a 3-2 Post 217 advantage.
The Rangers went down in order in the seventh and also had their final 13 batters retired in order.
After suffering an 8-3 loss to Wayne County Post 68 on Thursday in the winner’s bracket semifinals, the Rangers concluded their 2019 season in the one-run setback.
It was also the only time that Post 39 lost a game after leading entering the seventh inning.
As tough as it was to see this special summer come to an end, Post 39 coach Shawn Arnott still had no problem holding his head high for what these Rangers were able to accomplish.
And, hopefully, it is the start of something even better for Meigs Post 39 baseball.
“I couldn’t imagine that this season was going to go the way that it did. We were winless last year and we were really only in one ball game, but this year we were in every single ball game that we played in,” Arnott said. “It’s a tough way to end things because this is the only time we lost a game in the seventh inning, but you also have to give Sidney a lot of credit for the outcome. They did what they had to do, and it was just good baseball on their part.
“At the end of the day, we won our district and we were one of eight teams at the state tournament. We made a lot of great memories this summer and we had a lot of fun playing baseball. As we start looking at next year, we definitely feel that Post 39 baseball is in a much better spot than it was a year ago. This year meant so much to a lot of different people, and that is very rewarding. I’m proud of the season we put together.”
Post 39 didn’t have a lot of scoring chances and also dodged a handful of bullets as the guests stranded nine baserunners, while the Rangers left only three on the bags.
Sidney also outhit the hosts by an 8-5 overall margin, with both teams playing an error-free contest.
Evan Monnier led off the game with a single and ultimately scored on a fielder’s choice by Kennedy, giving Post 217 an early 1-0 edge.
Mitch Larger went the distance for the win, allowing two earned runs, five hits and one walk over seven innings while striking out four.
Mason Hanning took the tough-luck loss after surrendering two earned runs, five hits and one walk over three innings of relief while fanning two. Starter Briar Wolfe allowed one earned run, three hits and five walks over four frames while striking out one.
Billy Harmon paced the Rangers with two hits, with Wolfe, Jeffers and Wyatt Hoover also providing a safety apiece. Jeffers accounted for Post 39 RBIs.
Monnier led Sidney with two hits, followed by Rutschilling, Kennedy, Siegle, Larger, Darren Hoying and Tyler McClay with a safety each.
The Ohio American Legion state baseball tournament will continue through the weekend, with the championship final tentatively scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday.
Bryan Walters can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2101.