Pittsburg Post 64 used a sterling performance on the mound by V.J. Piccini and some timely hitting to emerge from the first day of the Pittsburg Legion/FSCC Classic with a split, taking a 2-1 win Friday afternoon over Next Level Baseball at JayCee Ballpark.
Post 64 head man Mike Watt started his postgame discussion with his players by focusing on Piccini and the central aspects of his performance.
"V.J. was throwing strikes . . . what was happening?" Watt said. "They were smacking him a little bit, weren't they? They were beating him around a little bit and where were the balls going? Right at us, we were playing great defense. He settled down . . . it's so easy mentally to go 'Ah, these guys are killing us.' They weren't killing him, they were just putting the bat on the ball and that's their job. (Piccini) came out and threw 69 pitches in seven innings. That's awesome.
"So, all you pitchers, don't be afraid to throw strikes. Don't be afraid to throw strikes. That's what it's all about. Trust these guys around you because they're good . . . they're good. Just play the game right and we're going to win a lot of games."
Piccini scattered four hits over seven innings — one in the third, one in the fifth, one in the sixth and one in the seventh. Derick Bohn collected two of the four hits.
"That's a good game, that's a nice win," Post 64 assistant Gary Grimaldi said. "I will say that's the way we need to win games, those 2-1 games. Doing the little things, playing good defense and V.J. pitches a good game. You can win a lot of games that way. They're fun games to win — 1 hour, 25 minutes."
Next Level Baseball took a 1-0 lead in the sixth — Michael Sinks reached on an error, hustled over to third on a Dayton Pomeroy single and hustled his way home on a wild pitch, beating Piccini and Post 64 catcher Ryan Cedeno on the play.
However, Sinks' hustle did not stand up in the bottom of the sixth.
With one down, Colton Gilbert found a way to get on base, reaching on an error. He moved over to second and pinch hitter Cody Grilz made an immediate impact on the game with a looper into right to score Gilbert with a single. Post 64 scored the game-winning run on a dropped force out at home, the drop by catcher Greyson LaPlant allowing Grilz to score.
"That's something we talk about," Watt said. "Good teams respond. When you get challenged, you want to come back and we did that. They scored one in the sixth, we scored two and that's the ballgame. It's something we've come to expect. I feel like we've got a very good opportunity to win every time we take the field."
Page 2 of 3 - Post 64 evened its record on the day, as well as its record overall this season to 2-2. Post 64 plays Arkansas Express 1 at 9 a.m. today, Mac N Seitz at 1:30 p.m.
"Even though we're playing teams from Kansas City, Tulsa, Arkansas, you know, we need to realize that we're just as good," Watt said. "We're a talented group of kids and part of being a good player is believing that you are. We believe that and we've got to maybe get a little bit tougher on the mental side at times."
Arkansas Express 8, Pittsburg Post 64 5
One bad inning cost Post 64 in the opener Friday morning.
Gone was a 4-1 lead entering the fifth inning. Gone was the momentum taken after Post 64 plated three runs in the bottom of the third. Gone was the momentum after the Arkansas Express head coach was thrown out following his extended monologue (not exactly an argument) with home plate umpire Jason Clemensen and field umpire Bob Forrest. Earl Weaver or Lou Piniella or (remember him) former Mississippi Braves manager Phil Wellman would have been proud.
"The first game, we jump up 4-1 and we just kind of let it slip away," Watt said. "I don't know how it got away from us so quick but give them credit. They hit the ball that one inning and scored six runs. They executed a nice bunt. They did some good things and that's what happens when you play good teams. We didn't make very many mistakes, they just did a good job on their part."
Unfortunately, a couple of those mistakes happened in the six-run fifth inning.
Nate Grimaldi misplayed a William Hancock single, giving Hancock an extra base. Hancock scored on next batter Mason Faulkner's single.
Then, it all sort of unraveled for Post 64 with walks, hit batters and two run-producing singles.
With no outs, Blake Vail relieved starter Christian Cedeno and he promptly earned two outs with a fly out to first and a 6-3 groundout. Then, with two outs and a 4-all score, Nate Alberius delivered the game-winning two-out two-run single plating Cole Jenkins and Ty Owens.
Post 64 strung together three consecutive RBI hits in the third —an infield single by Colton Gilbert (the controversial play which resulted in an ejection), a double by Cedeno and a single by Macary.
Pittsburg Legion/FSCC Classic
at JayCee Ballpark
Pittsburg Post 64 2, Next Level Baseball 1
NLB 000 001 0 — 1 4 2
P64 000 002 X — 2 6 2
Drake Patton, Michael Sinks (6) and Greyson LaPlant. V.J. Piccini and Ryan Cedeno. WP: Piccini. E: Matt Sostarich, LaPlant; Brett Macary 2. 2B: LaPlant; Blake Vail. SB: Blake Shinkle, Derick Bohn; Colton Gilbert, Nate Grimaldi. CS: Grimaldi, Piccini. HBP: Luke Marquardt, Macary. LOB: NLB 5, P64 6.
Page 3 of 3 - Arkansas Express 8, Pittsburg Post 64 5
EXP2 001 061 — 8 5 1
P64 013 010 — 5 6 4
Cole Jenkins, Nate Alberius (5), J.D. Speed (6) and Ryne McDonald. Christian Cedeno, Blake Vail (5), Brett Macary (6) and Bryan Wade. WP: Jenkins. LP: Cedeno. E: Alberius; Matt Standlee 2, Nate Grimaldi, Cedeno. 2B: Cedeno. SF: Jenkins; Macary. SH: McDonald 2. SB: Mason Faulkner 2; Grimaldi. CS: Speed; Nick George. HBP: Jenkins. LOB: EXP 4, P64 4.