Winning a league title takes teamwork and determination.
For the Waverly Post 142 Senior Shockers, it took an extra inning and a two-RBI double from Tucker Tackett to secure a 6-4 win over Portsmouth Post 23 in Thursday night’s thriller at Branch Rickey Park in Portsmouth.
Claiming back-to-back league titles meant that the pressure was on for Waverly Post 142 to defend its crown after winning it in 2018. That pressure grew as the two baseball teams, tied at 4-4 midway through the game, battled through three scoreless innings before the champion Shockers broke the tie in the top of the eighth inning. Back-to-back singles from Weston Roop and Ian Gillen set the table for Tucker Tackett to deliver the two-RBI double to score them both and create a 6-4 advantage. The Waverly defense was able to hold in the bottom of the eighth inning to seal the deal.
The Shockers needed the win over Post 23 to clinch their second straight South Central Ohio League regular season title. Portsmouth wanted nothing better than to spoil the party. Both teams wanted the crown to nab the top seed in the upcoming Region 5 American Legion Baseball Tournament at V.A. Memorial Stadium. In the end, the crown, bragging rights, and the top seed all belonged to the Waverly Post 142 Shockers.
As the game began, Waverly started hitting immediately with Ian Gillen leading off the top of the first with a single. Kannon Pack had the next hit, a one-out double, that saw the Shockers threaten to score. But a groundout and a flyout brought the frame to an end.
The Shockers broke through with four runs in the top of the second inning. With one out, starting pitcher Tanner Cunningham reached base on a Post 23 error to get the offense started. Then Brayden Snodgrass stepped to the plate and provided a double, sending Cunningham home to score the first run, 1-0. A pop-up to first base by Weston Roop created the second out. Then Gillen drew a walk to put runners at first and second, giving Tucker Tackett his first opporunity of the night to deliver a big hit.
Tackett stepped to the plate and blasted a triple to right field, scoring Gillen and Reid Chapman, who was serving as the courtesy runner for Snodgrass, 3-0. Tackett later went home on a single to left field from Derek Eblin, 4-0. Waverly left the bases loaded, as Pack and Cade Powell both drew walks before Cade McNeil grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the frame.
Post 23 was able to get two runners to base in the bottom of the second, but a popup to shortstop Ian Gillen and a groundout to Tackett at first base ended the threat. Portsmouth threatened again in the third, but the Shockers turned a 6-4-3 double play to bring the frame to a close.
Portsmouth was able to break its drought in the bottom of the fourth inning, plating four runs to tie the contest. Luke Lindamood led off with a double, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a one-out single from Seth Nichols, generating his team’s first run, 4-1.
Shocker pitcher Tanner Cunningham came back with another strikeout to get the second out. But Portsmouth’s Darius Jordan followed with a single, filling the bases. Jaden Jesse, who had drawn a walk after Lindamood’s hit, was able to score on a wild pitch. Jesse’s run cut the lead in half, 4-2.
After Portsmouth’s Bailey Rowe drew a walk and Cunningham had a 1-0 count on the next batter, a pitching switch was made. Derek Eblin moved from third base to the mound while Cunningham went to center field and Kannon Pack shifted to third base. Bryce Ponn connected on the next hit, singling to center field to plate Nichols and Jordan, 4-4. A fielder’s choice generated the third out.
In the top of the fifth, the Shockers were able to get a pair of runners to base, but they couldn’t get them home.
Whitley came up with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth inning, but was caught stealing on a throw from catcher Connor Galloway to Gillen at shortstop. Then Eblin followed with a strikeout to end the inning.
Waverly’s batters went down in order in the top of the sixth inning. Again, Portsmouth threatened to score, but the Post 142 defense was up to the task. Nichols started with a leadoff single only to see Eblin come right back with a strikeout. Jordan followed with a sacrifice bunt, pushing Nichols to second. He went to third when Bailey Rowe produced an infield single to Weston Roop at second. Although Rowe beat Roop’s throw to first base, Waverly first baseman Tucker Tackett saw an opportunity, getting Nichols out at home to keep the score knotted at 4-4.
In the top of the seventh inning, Waverly’s Cade McNeil had his team’s only hit in the form of a one-out single.
Post 23 tried to rally again, aiming to record a walk-off win in the bottom of the seventh inning. An error allowed leadoff hitter Bryce Ponn to reach base safely. He moved to second on a sacrifice bunt before Luke Lindamood drew a walk to put runners at first and second. For Waverly, Eblin came back with a strikeout for the second out. Then Jaden Jesse walked, filling the bases. Nichols hit a grounder to Pack at first base for the third out, keeping the 4-4 tie intact.
Post 142 took control in the top of the eighth inning. After Roop and Gillen started with back-to-back singles, Tackett stepped to the plate and delivered a double, scoring them both to put his team in front 6-4. Tackett was able to get to third on a groundout from Pack before the half-inning came to an end on a fly ball to center field by Eblin. Now all the Shockers needed to do was record the final three outs and the league title would belong to them.
In the bottom of the eighth, Portsmouth’s leadoff batter reached base safely via error, but he was picked off at first on a throw from Eblin to Tackett. A lineout followed. Then Bailey Rowe became the final base runner, drawing a walk. The next batter, Ponn, hit a fly ball to Cade Powell in right field for the final out, sealing the 6-4 victory.
“Tanner (Cunningham) and Derek (Eblin) threw well enough to give us an opportunity to achieve victory,” said Waverly coach Jonathan Teeters. “Tucker (Tackett) had a day at the plate; the Tackett household has a lot to be proud of this evening.”
Tackett finished 2-for-5 with one double, one triple, one run and four of the six RBIs generated in the win. Snodgrass was 1-for-2 with a double and an RBI. Eblin was 1-for-5 with an RBI. Roop, Gillen, Pack and McNeil all went 1-for-4.
Cunningham pitched the first 3-2/3 innings, giving up four runs on six hits, while striking out three and walking four. Eblin (4-1) pitched the final 4-1/3, giving up four hits, while striking out three and walking three.
“This was a big win for us. To win our regular season is always a goal of ours,” said Teeters. “We’re excited to earn the No. 1 seed and see where this takes us.”
The victory sees the Shockers improve to 15-6 overall and 5-1 in the SCOL, earning back-to-back league championships. They will be back home at Piketon High School to play Lancaster Post 11 at 11 a.m. Saturday morning.
Additionally, securing the No. 1 seed means that the Shockers will start Region 5 tournament action on Sunday, July 21 at 2:30 p.m. at V.A. Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe against the winner between the No. 4 and No. 5 seeds. The winner of the Region 5 tournament will advance to the state tournament at Beavers Field in Lancaster.