TILTON — Being a little nervous playing in front of a big hometown crowd in the Illinois American Legion State Baseball Tournament is understandable.
But playing nervous turned out to be the worst possible scenario for the Post 210 Speakers.
Rock Island Post 200 scored four times in the first two innings and then held on for a 4-1 victory over Post 210 in an opening-round game at Gruber Park.
“We really didn’t come ready to play off the rip,’’ said Danville left fielder Dalton Hobick, who had the only RBI for Post 210 with a two-out double down the left-field line in the fourth inning.
“We were never out of the game, we just needed more than one key hit to get things turned around and we didn’t get it.’’
Instead, Rock Island right-hander Chance Carruthers and left-handed reliever Noah Schneider combined for 10 strikeouts as the Speakers (16-4) stranded seven runners on base, including four in the final two innings.
“In the first few innings, we definitely looked like a team that was a little nervous playing in front of a big hometown crowd,’’ Post 210 manager Allan Shepherd said. “We didn’t execute some of our bunts. I got them together after that third inning and told them to calm down that it was just another game.
“I think with all of the pageantry before the game, there was a lot of emotion. We came out and looking like a team that is fairly young.’’
Post 210, which has only five senior players on its entire roster, had six of its season-high 10 strikeouts in the first three innings. The Speakers came into the state tournament averaging just 4.4 strikeouts a game.
“We got a little lackadaisical in those first three innings,’’ said Post 210 shortstop Rance Bryant, one of five seniors on the roster. “We couldn’t get anything going and the got on top of early.
“I think some of it was not know what this team (Rock Island) had and it being the first game of state.’’
Things started to change for Post 210 in the fourth inning.
Josh Young drew a two-out walk from Carruthers and Hobick followed with a line drive down the left-field line. Young was able to score all the way from first and Post 210 had pulled within 4-1.
“We are always going to fight until the last out,’’ Hobick said. “We just needed to hit a little earlier and we need to do a better job of attacking the fastballs when they are there.’’
Post 210 (16-4) had its chances in the sixth and seventh innings against Rock Island (23-3).
Back-to-back one-out singles from Isaiah Ruch and Andy Onnen in the sixth brought the tying run to the plate, but Carruthers was able to strike out Young and he got Hobick to fly out to right to end the threat.
In the seventh inning, the Speakers got a leadoff single from relief pitcher Dawson Dodd and a well-earned walk by Brady Howard, which forced Carruthers from the game because of the American Legion pitch count rules.
But once again, Post 210 failed to get a key hit as Schneider, the Rock Island reliever, struck out pinch-hitter Tuff Elson got Bryant to pop out on a 3-0 pitch and then struck out Brody Sexton to end the game.
Bryant, who leads the Speakers with a .517 average coming into state, was admittedly disappointed in his at-bat.
“I was thinking fastball inside and it was, but (Schneider) had a little tail on it and it went away on me,’’ Bryant said. “I stuck the bat out and tilted it too much, popping the ball straight up into the air.
“I was ready to pound one. I should have been more of a team player, take the pitch, maybe get a walk, and let Brody knock us in.’’
Once again, the big crowd at Gruber played a factor.
“It would have been cool to hit a home run there with all the people here,’’ said Bryant, who later realized that Post 210 has only one team home run this season. “We have to play smarter, not harder.’’
In the first two innings, Rock Island Post 200 definitely looked like a team that was playing its style of baseball.
Rock Island catcher Dom Ferrari got things started when he crushed a 3-2 pitch over the right-center field fence giving his team an 1-0 advantage.
That started an offensive theme for Rock Island.
In the second inning, Zach Carpita, Julian Harris and Mateo Pena all lined doubles into the right-center field gap. Harris and Pena each drove home a run with their extra-base hits.
“Give Rock Island all the credit, they capitalized on our mistakes in those first two innings,’’ Shepherd said. “That’s a sign of a really good hitting team when you wear out the right-center field gap. It tells you that they are staying back and driving the ball.’’
After those first two innings, the Post 210 pitchers held Rock Island to just two hits.
Barrington 7 Harrisburg 0
TILTON — Matt Vojack struck out a tournament-high 14 batters as Barrington cruised past Harrisburg in a first-round contest of the Illinois American Legion State Tournament.
Vojack allowed just four hits on his way to the complete game shutout.
Logan Eisenbarth provided Barrington with all the offense it would need, going 2-for-4 with three RBIs including a two-run homer. Danny Hoffman was also 3-for-4 for Barrington with two RBIs.
Andrew Bittle and Krayton Morse combined for all of the Harrisburg hits in the game. Bittle had a single and double, while Morse had two singles.