(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
POPLAR BLUFF -- With Charleston falling 16-6 to the host Poplar Bluff Express in the championship game Sunday afternoon, the Fighting Squirrels took second place in the Poplar Bluff Express American Legion Tournament.
Though Charleston would at one point cut into an eight-run deficit to bring itself to within four, the Express kept tacking on runs, scoring four in the sixth to win by the 10-run mercy rule.
"We battled," the Squirrel's James Naile said. "The score doesn't indicate very well how close the game was at times."
While Charleston would put up a run in the top of the first inning to take the early lead, Poplar Bluff would go on to score nine unanswered runs in the next four-and-a-half frames to take a 9-1 advantage going in to the fifth.
It was in the top of the fifth when the Squirrels would finally get their offense clicking, scoring four in the frame to bring cut the deficit to four.
Unfortunately, Charleston's pitching woes would continue allowing the Express to add three more runs on their lead in the bottom of the frame to make it 12-5.
After the Squirrels brought home one more runner in the top of the sixth a fielding error in the bottom of the inning would take away any chance at a comeback.
With the bases loaded and two runs having already scored on a two out fielding error, Poplar Bluff's Sawyer Smith would hit what looked like an inning-ending ground ball to the third baseman.
Charleston's first baseman would unsuccessfully attempt to haul in the off-target throw before being forced to scramble after the ball only to see the final two runs cross the plate ending the game.
"We played well the first couple games of the tournament," Charleston's Ethan Browning said. "We came in today and didn't hit the ball as well as we had and we had a couple of errors where we didn't need them."
Earning the win Polar Bluff's starting pitcher Sheldon Edmundson went 4 2/3 innings. He allowed five runs on four hits and three walks while striking out five.
For the Squirrels, starter Dustin Brister takes the loss. He went two innings allowing four runs on three hits and four walks while striking out one.
Charleston came away with six hits on the afternoon as Brandon Peters led the team going 2-for-3.
With errors extending many of Poplar Bluff's rallies Charleston coach Matt Bucher stressed you can't give a team like the Express extra opportunities.
"You can't do that against good team and Poplar Bluff is a good team," he said. "Anytime you give them more than three outs an inning they're going to score runs and they're going to score a lot of them. That's what they did today."
Next up Charleston (12-11) will take on visiting Jackson's Senior Babe Ruth team Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Charleston 100 041 - 6
Poplar Bluff 040 534 - 16
WP -- Sheldon Edmundson. LP -- Dustin Brister. Multiple hitters -- (C) Brandon Peters 2-3, (PB) Mitchell Dennis 2-3, Sawyer Smith 2-5. 2B -- (PB) Jake Smith, Sheldon Edmundson. 3B -- (C) Ethan Browning. HR -- (PB) Sawyer Smith.