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“BEST GAME ALL YEAR”

Legion juniors cruise past Gordo, 9-2, in tourney opener

By Jerry Hinnen

TUSCALOOSA–Head coach Jonathan Lynsey said Wednesday that as long as his West Alabama American Legion junior baseball team played defense, they’d stand a good chance of winning their District Tournament.

Lynsey got that wish and a lot more Thursday afternoon, as the team representing Post 29 fielded, pitched, and hit its way to a decisive 9-2 victory over Gordo’s Post 40 in the first round of the Legion District Tournament in Tuscaloosa. The win moves West Alabama into the second round to face South Tuscaloosa at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.

“That’s probably the best game we’ve played all year,” Lynsey said afterwards. “We had, what, 11 or 12 hits? If we keep playing like that, I think we’ll win the tournament.”

Post 29 was led by a strong pitching performance from Randy Martin, who threw a complete game three-hitter and allowed only one earned run. After Gordo scored two runs in the top of the second, Martin threw five consecutive shutout innings to end the game.

“That was pretty much the pitching performance of the season right there,” Lynsey said.

But Martin had plenty of help, too, the biggest chunk of it coming in the bottom of the fifth as West Alabama broke open a close game with a big two-out rally. With West Alabama clinging to a 3-2 lead, Cameron Brister singled before third baseman Brent Bonner atoned for an earlier error with a double to deep left-center, scoring Brister from first. Robbie Smith then made it back-to-back doubles to drive in Bonner and chase the Gordo starter. After Brett Vick had moved Smith to third with a bloop single to left, two consecutive wild pitches scored Smith and put Vick on third. A throwing error by the Gordo second baseman then allowed Dustin Edwards to reach and Vick to score, capping off a miserable inning for Gordo that saw West Alabama’s lead grow to 7-2.

Post 29 put the game effectively put out of reach with two more in the sixth. Martin singled to lead off the inning and moved to third on a Brister single before scoring on another Gordo wild pitch. Vick then singled Brister home to push the West Alabama lead to seven at 9-2.

The single and run scored capped off an excellent performance by Brister, who went 3-4 with three runs scored and an RBI, and reached base on all four plate appearances. He also had a solid game in the field, leaping high to snag a Gordo line drive in the sixth inning.

“Cameron had a great game for us today,” Lynsey said.

Gordo would put runners on the corners in the top of the seventh, but Martin struck out the final Post 40 batter to complete the victory with things still very well in hand.

The two teams had traded blows to open the game. West Alabama opened the scoring with two in the bottom of the first, Brister getting things started by reaching on an error by the Gordo shortstop and Chase Felts following with a single to left. After Bonner had moved the runners to second and third with a ground-out, Smith delivered a two-out, two-RBI single to give Post 29 the lead. Smith would finish the game 2-4 with three RBIs and a run scored.

Gordo responded with two in the top of the second, scoring on a wild pitch and an error, the only one committed by Post 29 in the game. But West Alabama quickly re-took the lead with a manufactured run in the bottom half of the inning. Reed Gardiner singled and moved to second on a sacrifice by Haygon Kaylor, and two batters later Brister singled to drive Gardiner in.

From there, both pitchers settled down as neither team scored until West Alabama’s four-run outburst in the fifth.

Patrick Castleman was expected to receive the starting assignment for West Alabama’s late game, results from which were not available as of press time. Post 29 has faced South Tuscaloosa once already this season, earning a victory in their first game of the season. However, South Tuscaloosa will have a home crowd behind it as the tournament is being held at Tuscaloosa Academy.