(Photo by Brent Shipman, Staff)
SPRINGFIELD -- Through Charleston's first six postseason games the Bluejays were able to put their regular season troubles in the field to rest with solid defensive play that helped them earn a trip to the Class 2 Show Me Showdown.
In their seventh and final game of the postseason, however, the Bluejays found their old demons once again coming back to haunt them.
Playing Clever in the Class 2 third-place game after Wednesday's semifinal loss to New Bloomfield, Charleston committed six errors leading to eight unearned runs in a 11-10 extra-inning loss.
"For whatever reason we just didn't play very well today," Charleston coach Michael Minner said. "We swung the bats. If you had told me we'd come to state and score ten runs and not win I'd have said you're crazy.
"But that's just how it rolls sometimes."
Taking a two run lead into the bottom of the seventh, the Bluejays had swung the momentum their way after a sluggish start, scoring seven unanswered runs in the previous 2 1/2 frames to fight back from an 8-3 deficit.
Things took a turn for the worse, however, when Clever's cleanup hitter, David Pennewell, was hit a by a pitch to start the bottom of the seventh.
Two batters later, Tyler Martin tied the game with one swing of the bat, hitting a shot over the left field fence to even the score at 10-10 and send the game into extra innings.
"That was big," starting pitcher Ethan Browning said. "You have to give them their props when they do something like that.
"Stepping up right there and hitting a bomb to tie the game up. That kid has a lot of heart."
Unable to produce a run in the top of the eighth, Charleston found itself in a precarious position when Clever's leadoff hitter, Travis Pennewell, reached on an error.
After Clever moved Travis Pennewell over to second on a bunt, Bluejays' relief pitcher Marshall Stallings intentionally walked the next batter to set up a double play as David Pennewell stepped to plate with chance to end the game.
After getting a second life on a dropped foul pop up earlier in the at bat, Davis Pennewell made Charleston pay for their mistakes, hitting a line drive to the wall in left field, easily scoring Travis Pennewell to end the game.
"I actually felt real good today pitching," Marshall Stallings said. "I just got behind that last batter, left one right over the plate and he burned us."
Coming in with one out to close the door in the seventh, Stallings took the loss, giving up one unearned run on a hit and walk.
Stallings replaced Browning who went the first 6 1/3 innings, allowing 10 runs, only three earned, on seven hits and six walks while striking out one.
Though Charleston's defense was what ultimately did them in, it was a huge day at the plate that almost made up for their problems in the field.
With 11 hits, five of which went for extra bases, Charleston finished the game with seven of their nine starters collecting at least a single, including a 3 for 5 performance at at the plate from James Naile, who was a triple short of the cycle.
Batting second, Trey Watkins had a pair of doubles on the contest while scoring a run.
"During the playoffs, the bottom of the order had really been carrying us a lot," Charleston's Danny McKinney said. "We really just started swinging as a team when we got up here to the state tournament.
"All up and down the order today everybody was getting on and everybody was getting them in."
Finishing the year with a 16-11 record, this year's Charleston team set plenty of first for the Bluejay baseball program, including the first district baseball championship in school history and the first trip to the Show Me Showdown.
"It's incredible," Minner said of his team's postseason run. "It sets the standard for what Charleston baseball needs to be from here. These kids have worked so hard in the weight room in the summers and just put on an incredible display of what it takes to be successful.
"We've had such support from the community, it's been amazing and I couldn't be prouder to be a part of it."
Charleston 003 043 00 - 10 11 6
Clever 230 300 21 - 11 8 2
WP -- Chance Wolfe. LP -- Marshall Stallings. 2B -- (CH) Trey Watkins 2, James Naile, Ethan Browning; (CL) Davis Pennewell, Ranger Curtis. 3B -- (CH) Kamari Allmon. HR -- (CH) Naile; (CL) Tyler Martin.