BELLINGHAM - Post 7 and Lakeside followed the manual when it comes to deciding league title games the right way. Unfortunately for Bellingham, its Senior American Legion baseball club came out on the wrong side of a heartbreaker.
"You just got to tip your cap to them," Post 7 coach Steve Slesk said. "It was a heck of a ball game."
It certainly was. Post 7 starting pitcher Tanner Olson had a two-run lead until Lakeside's Clayton Huber launched a game-tying home run over the right-center-field wall at Sehome High's baseball park in the sixth inning. Bellingham didn't recover, the game went into extras and a ninth-inning rally fell far too short after Lakeside piled on three runs off Post 7 reliever Brice Longanecker in the top half of the inning to earn a 7-4 win and a District 1 Senior American Legion title Tuesday, July 16.
The loss awards Lakeside, a Seattle-area club, home-field advantage during the Four by Four American Legion Regional Tournament. Post 7, the league's No. 2 seed, now has to travel to Spokane for its regional.
"It was a heartbreaker," said Post 7 shortstop Pete Pennylegion, who recorded three of Bellingham's eight hits, including two doubles. "We wanted to win bad. We wanted to get home field. Now we have to go to Spokane for a couple of days."
The Eastern Washington city is becoming a second home for the ball club after playing there two weeks ago, and Post 7 is hoping to make a third trip by placing in the top two, thus advancing to state during next weekend's regionals. Where's state? You guessed it, Spokane.
Bellingham had its chances to play at home, though. Post 7 fell behind early 1-0 Tuesday and struggled hitting Lakeside starter Justin Vernia, until Post 7's Cooper Jansen recorded a clutch, bases-loaded three-run triple in the bottom of the fourth.
The Everett Community College pitcher, who Slesk said was originally pegged to pitch only this summer, got a fastball over the plate on a 3-1 count and drilled an opposite field liner over the right fielder's head. Jansen turned it on and cruised into third, scoring Luke Christianson, Olson and Brice Longanecker.
Forrest Longanecker scored Jansen from third with a suicide squeeze during the next at-bat to give Post 7 a 4-1 advantage.
Lakeside pushed a run across in the top of the fifth before Jake Manson and Marshall Weston turned a textbook 5-4-3 double play to limit additional damage. It was one of a trio of defensive gems for Bellingham. Right fielder Dan Goebel made a spectacular diving catch running towards the infield during the top of the fourth, and Pennylegion made a flashy backwards flip Weston caught bare handed while falling back and stepping on second during a Lakeside groundball back up the middle.
It wasn't defensive play that hurt Post 7. It was Huber's bat. He stepped to the plate in the sixth, and he tied the game at 4 with a two-run shot on the first pitch he saw.
"I thought he pitched really good," said Pennylegion of Olson, who went seven innings, gave up three earned runs, struck out four and walked two. "The kid hit a really hard baseball. It was a rocket. I mean that was their only long ball really hit all day. It was just one pitch. He got it up at his belt, fastball."
Post 7 got its leadoff men aboard during both the sixth and the eighth but couldn't manufacture a run. Christianson stole his third base of the evening in the seventh to give Bellingham a runner in scoring position, but Goebel was struck out by Lakeside reliever Drew Doxsie with two outs.
Lakeside's Mitchell Morimoto gave his club a 5-4 lead in the ninth with a RBI single off Brice Longanecker. The Seattle-area club added two more runs thanks to a bases-loaded walk and suicide squeeze of its own.
"He pitched Sunday," Slesk said of Brice, "not a full game, but he relieved one of the games Sunday. He was our best available option coming out of the pen. He felt good. He gutted it up just to get out there and do what he did today."
Both Goebel and Olson recorded hits, and Christianson had two base hits and two walks to go with his three stolen bases.
Post 7's quest for a state tournament berth begins at 10 a.m. Saturday in Spokane.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
LAKESIDE 7, POST 7 4 (9)
Lakeside 010 012 003 - 7 11 1
Post 7 000 400 000 - 4 8 2
WP: Drew Doxsie LP: Brice Longanecker Highlights: Bell - Pete Pennylegion 3-5, 2 2B; Luke Christianson 2-3, 2 BB, R, 3 SB; Tanner Olson 1-3, 2 BB; R; Cooper Jansen 1-3, 3B, BB, 3 RBI, R
BELLINGHAM 6, BELLEVUE 1
Bellingham 001 011 3 - 6 7 2
Bellevue 001 000 0 - 1 5 0
WP: Chad Richter. LP: Burssa. Highlights: Bellingham: Jake Manson 2-3, RBI; Brady Shearer 1-2; Brice Longanecker 1-2, RBI; Tanner Olson 1-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Pete Pennylegion 1-3.
BELLINGHAM 8, BELLEVUE 7 (11)
Bellevue 300 001 201 00 -7 10 2
Bellingham 000 141 001 01 - 8 19 2
WP: Brice Longanecker. LP: Neely. Highlights: Bellingham: Pete Pennylegion 3-6; Jake Manson 3-6; Dan Goebel 2-5; Brice Longanecker 2-4.
BELLVUE 5, BELLINGHAM 4
Bellevue 200 003 0 - 5 8 1
Bellingham 200 001 1 - 4 8 1
WP: Kofer. LP: Cooper Jansen. Highlights: Bellingham: Dan Goebel 1-2; Jake Manson 1-3, 2B; Luke Christianson 2-4, 2 2B; Marshall Weston 2-2.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.