STE. GENEVIEVE – Tucker Smith was summoned earlier than likely expected from the bullpen, and was standing at the plate during a crucial moment for Bonne Terre Post 83 on Thursday.
The top-seeded Bulldogs overcame a lethargic performance during their first game in the Junior Legion District 13 tournament to escape Festus, 9-8, and reach the winner’s bracket final.
Bonne Terre erased two separate five-run deficits and advanced to face either Ste. Genevieve or Rock Memorial for a berth in the championship round Saturday at Yanks Field.
Smith allowed one run over four innings for the win, and catcher Joe Hulsey caught runners stealing in the sixth and seventh frames after the leadoff batters reached safely each time.
Festus eventually had the tying and go-ahead runners in scoring position after Andrew Graves singled and eluded two tags to swipe second, but Smith induced a game-ending ground ball.
Post 83 was decisively outhit 13-7 overall, and trailed 8-3 before mounting a successful comeback in the bottom of the fifth against Post 253 starter Austin Bearden.
Sean Pruneau doubled and Malcolm Hawkins was hit by a pitch. Cole Ziegler drove in both with a double to make it 8-5, and took third base on an errant throw.
Bonne Terre sent up 10 batters in the sixth and tallied four times after drawing six walks. A leadoff single by outfielder Nick Parker was the lone hit during that rally.
Reliever Nate Moss inherited the bases loaded and threw four straight balls to Pruneau. Karson Kekec cut the margin to 8-7 with an RBI ground out.
Dawson Harper beat the return throw for the tying run after breaking from third on a wild pitch, and Smith drew a go-ahead walk after Post 253 elected to intentionally pass Ziegler and Hulsey.
Festus got two hits each from six players – Matt Posey, Zach Richardson, Brady Gilmore, Gunnison Heine, Caleb Hyde and Graves – and quickly sparked an upset bid against Pruneau.
An error and passed ball on a third strike turned into a 3-0 lead in the first inning. Cole Martin opened the scoring with an RBI double to right-center field.
Richardson collected his first of two RBI with a ground ball in the second, and Posey’s RBI single created a 5-0 spread in the top of the third.
Bonne Terre utilized singles by Briley Smith, Harper and Hulsey to draw closer with three runs during the home half. Ziegler was plunked in the foot with the bases loaded.
Post 253 restored a 7-3 margin following three hits and a mishandled throw to first in the fourth inning, ending Pruneau’s stint on the mound.
The Festus attack subsided for the evening when Briley Smith started a double play on a nice backhand stop in the hole, but not before Richardson singled home Graves in the fifth.
Ziegler finished 2-for-2 while reaching base four times to pace Post 83. Briley Smith doubled to begin the game, and went 2-for-3 with two runs scored.
Matt King is a sports reporter for the Daily Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org