SYRACUSE — Valentine held on for dear life in the top of the seventh inning here at Veterans Field to turn back Stromsburg-Osceola-Shelby 6-5 in a consolation game of the Class C Senior Legion baseball tournament Sunday.
Long-time Valentine Post 90 skipper, Kent Lopez, who’s been the head of the Valentine Legion program for 42 years, lamented he may have aged another 42 in consolation bracket loss.
“They just had to make it exciting,” Lopez said. “I don’t think I had a gray hair when we got here Saturday.”
Valentine appeared to be cruising to its first-ever win in any state baseball tournament with a 6-2 lead heading into the SOS half of the seventh and final inning.
Pitcher, Jaydon Owen was also seemingly on cruise control but after Owen got he first batter for SOS to fly out to left field, the wheels temporarily came off.
Back-to-back errors by Post 90 jump-started the SOS at bat.
“We really made a lot of mistakes out here today,” Lopez said. “On the bases and in the field, but we found a way to win — somehow.”
Following the errors, a couple of walks, a new pitcher, another walk, a base hit and two more bases on ball and the Valentine ship was taking on water.
“Jaydon has been sick since the 4th of July,” Lopez said. “His pitches were getting up there and he was gassed — we had to get him out of there.”
Drew McIntosh came off first base and behind a refocused Valentine defense, finished the game.
With the bases loaded and a single out, McIntosh coaxed a hard ground ball to third base which was rifled to Devon Osnes, the Post 90 catcher to prevent the tying run.
The next batter hit a soft fly ball to shallow center field which shortstop Conner Fowler tracked down for the final out.
“This feels very good,” Osnes said of the win. “We all wanted to get down here and get a win for ourselves and Loper (Lopez), he’s earned it — it’s been a lot of fun.”
Earlier in the game, SOS grabbed a lead in the top of the first inning but Valentine answered in the bottom of the frame to make it 1-1.
SOS was at it again in the second and plated a run before Owen settled in.
“I just settled in and started throwing strikes,” Owen said. “I knew I just had to throw strikes and trust my defense — I knew they would make the plays.
Valentine erupted in the fourth inning with three runs to take its first lead of the entire tournament, 4-2.
After an out in the bottom of the inning, Cameron Brown drew a walk.
After another out, SOS committed an error to put Tagg Buechle aboard and Brown advanced to third on the bobble.
Turner Tinant was intentionally walked and McIntosh was hit by a pitch to score Brown.
Conner Fowler slapped a deep single to chase home a couple of runs and Valentine looked poised for the win.
The momentum carried on to the sixth when Post 90 scored a couple of runs that appeared to be insurance in nature until the bottom of the seventh.
“sometimes we’re just too stupid to know how good we can be,” Lopez said. “It makes it unnecessarily nerve wracking.”
Valentine will move on in the consolation bracket Monday, playing the loser of the Pender versus DCB.
Osnes has a simple plan for his coach to relieve some of the stress.
“We plan to just win,” Osnes said.
First pitch is slated for 5:00 p.m. Monday for Post 90.
SOS 110 000 4 5 3 4
VAL 100 302 X 6 6 4
WP: Jaydon Owen. LP: Bailey Belt S: Drew McIntosh.
2B: (V) Tagg Buechle; McIntosh.