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EDWARDSVILLE – Alton American Legion Post 126’s baseball team arrived at Redbird Field ready to go.

The weather had other plans.

A line of thundershowers arrived at the field just as their scheduled semifinal game against Danville Legion Post 210 was getting started; umpires decided to halt the game with Ethan Kopsie up – the third batter of the game – and Alton having scored a run.

The line settled over Alton and stalled out, starting what turned out to be a four-and-a-half hour delay, forcing tournament officials to move the game to SIU-Edwardsville’s Roy Lee Field.

During the delay, Mount Prospect’s team was awarded the state championship by Legion officials; Mount Prospect cited a need to allow some of their players to attend collegiate orientation sessions the next day as for why they couldn’t stay, leading to the decision to declare them state champions.

Once the game resumed at SIUE, the game reached the third inning before more rain and lightning struck Edwardsville, forcing another hour’s delay in the game.

In the end, Alton and Danville played a back-and-forth game with the second Illinois berth for the Legion’s Great Lakes Regional next week in Napoleon, Ohio, at stake.

Alton rallied to take the lead from Danville with two runs in the top of the seventh, but Danville bounced back to tie the game in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings before Danville scored off a throwing error in the bottom of the 10th to take the second regional berth 8-7 over Post 126 in what turned out to be an eight-hour-plus marathon.

“It’s tough,” said Alton manager Nick Paulda after the game. “At the end of the day, when you don’t make it-”, citing the experience Paulda and the coaching staff had with the 2015 Great Lakes Regional that was hosted by the Alton-Edwardsville Metro East Bears team, “how much fun we had to experience that regional – I wanted these guys to experience it this year.

“There’s no doubt they have a very good chance of experiencing it next year. It hurts that these guys won’t experience how fun Ohio can be, but what we accomplished this summer – no one thought we were going to do this.”

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Danville’s winning run in the 10th came when Jayce Maag – who had scored the lead run in the seventh for Alton – snared a line drive off Ernest Plummer’s bat and then threw to second to double off DeVonte Hicks, who singled to start the inning and was sacrificed over to second. Maag’s throw skidded away from Elijah Dannenbrink and went into right field, allowing Hicks to score the winning run.

“That’s just how baseball is,” Paulda said. “We reminded him that we wouldn’t even be in that situation if he didn’t have a hit earlier in the game – that’s just how it is; you might have one good play and then have one bad play. Usually, you have the next pitch to flush it and move on – I know for him, it’s going to hurt for a while, but he’s going off to Lindenwood and he’s going to do very well there; he’s a player.”

“We talked last night at the hotel; that Alton team’s scrappy,” said Danville manager Allen Shepherd. “We knew this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park; we knew it was going to come down to being a tough game with all the conditions and the weather and the sidebar attractions we had to deal with today; they’re scrappy.

“Our guys, at the end there – most of those guys have been to regionals and state tournaments and they know what it takes; they never gave up. I couldn’t be more proud of them and Dennis (Sharp, Alton’s general manager) should be real proud of that group over there too.”

In the end, Shepherd felt it was just pure luck that was the difference in the game. “No, I think was luck at the end,” Shepherd said. “It came down to luck; that play at the end, I don’t think anyone could have guessed something like that to happen. I liked our chances with the top of the lineup coming up, but again, they’re scrappy and they make the plays when they need to.”

The teams traded runs in the first and second innings to go to the third tied 2-2; Alton opened the third with singles from Adam Stilts, Ethan Kopsie and Maag to load the bases before another rain delay struck; about an hour later, Cullen McBride singled in Stilts to put Alton back on top at 3-2 before a Simon Nguyen walk and a Gage Booten fielder’s choice brought in Kopsie and Maag to put Alton ahead 5-2 and seemingly in command.

Danville countered with a pair of runs in the third when Noah Nelson opened with a single and Skylar Bolton tripled him in; Bolton then scored an a strikeout and error when the ball got away on the third strike to pull Danville to 5-4. Post 210 then took the lead in the fourth when Andy Borton and Hicks scored on RBI singles from Austin Littleton and Plummer.

Alton then took the lead back in the top of the seventh when Kopsie was hit by a pitch to open the inning and came around to score on a hit and error from Maag; Maag then gave Alton the lead back when Cullen McBride hit a sacrifice fly to right to score Maag. Danville forced extra innings in the bottom of the seventh when Keegan West doubled home Chase Vinson to tie the game at 7-7, leading to the dramatic finish in the bottom of the 10th.

Ben Mossman and Dannenbrink both were 1-for-4 with doubles in the game, Mossman had an RBI and Dannenbrink a run scored; Maag was 2-for-5 with a triple, an RBI and two runs scored, Stilts 1-for-5 with a run scored, McBride 1-for-3 with two RBIs, Nguyen an RBI and Booten 2-for-5 with an RBI and run scored.

Zach Knight took the loss, going 3.2 innings and striking out two; Bryce Parish got the ball and only went 1.1 innings before giving way to Nguyen, who struck out two in 4.2 innings of work.

Post 126’s team gained valuable experience over the summer, going 27-18 with a very young team; Paulda is very excited about the future of Alton’s team. “We knew what they were capable of,” Paulda said. “It was if or not they could look at themselves and know they were capable of it; that’s what ended up happening.

“We faced college pitching, we faced college hitters and I’ll put my pitching rotation up against anyone in the state or the country.”

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