WHEELING - Moundsville Post 3 was clicking on all cylinders heading into its first appearance in the championship round of the 25th annual Beast of the East Tournament Sunday morning.
But it is no secret that when you are playing the best of the best, there is very little room for error and every pitch counts, something that doomed manager Bill Burkett's squad from early on Sunday.
A total of four batters that either walked or were hit by pitches came around to score in the second and third innings, while a trio of Cleveland All-Stars' pitchers limited Post 3 to just hits in advancing to the semifinals with a 7-4 victory at overcast and drizzly Patterson Field.
The only loss of the event for Post 3 came after it rolled through play the first three days of the tournament at John Marshall, allowing just one run in four games, winning each one.
"It was our first time here and we had a fresh arm taking the mound so we felt pretty good coming in," Burkett admitted. "But it just wasn't meant to be in the end."
Moundsville starter, and losing pitcher, Jake Lucas was returning from vacation and had a well-rested arm, which was evident in the top of the first when he sat down all three hitters on nine pitches. However, he ran into trouble in the second and never got out of the third inning.
A leadoff walk in the second followed by an RBI double down the left-field line by Ben Schloss made it 1-0 before a passed ball and Matt Kohler two-out fielder's choice put the Cleveland squad up 2-0.
The third inning was worse. Johnny Knight was hit by a pitch with one away before Andy Santiago worked a two-out walk just ahead of Andrew Hurd's towering three-run homer to left field that staked the All-Stars to a 5-0 advantage. Another walk and Kohler's run-producing double upped the advantage to 6-0.
Moundsville (21-8) had a runner on in the first inning and two more on in the second, but the All-Stars were able to induce double plays on both occasions to end the threats.
Post 3 battled back in the fourth, scoring a pair of runs on Jeremiah Fromhart's RBI single, an All-Stars' error, and Hunter Kaschke's bases loaded, two-run double to deep left that cut the deficit to 6-4.
Kaschke, who relieved Lucas in the third, gave up one run, that coming on Santiago's solo home run in the fifth that added a little insurance and capped the scoring at 7-4.
"We knew we had at least two good arms left with Lucas and Kaschke, and we elected to go with Lucas, who pitched well very early on, but we brought Kaschke in as soon as we felt we needed him," Burkett said. "But these kids can still be proud of what they accomplished, we have never been this far before."
Cleveland coach Mike Boehm was happy with his team's ability to wait out the early walks.
"We wanted to be patient at the plate and we did a very good job of that early on," Boehm said. "Every one of our top eight hitters can hit the ball out of the park, but we always want to take what the pitcher is giving us.
"I think that was a big key, we were very disciplined at the plate early on while at the same time they were more undisciplined. We are also pretty deep at pitcher with 13 kids that can throw.
"We were seeded fifth because we were only able to get four games in before (Sunday) and only allowed eight runs, but I still believe we are one of the strongest teams playing here. This is a very good, hand-chosen, group of kids that play very good baseball."
Because of rain, this was the only game played in the championship bracket.
It was determined the CNY Thunder Americans were champions, followed by runner-up Maryland Monarchs.
Due to rains last week Post 3 will not be able to play on its new home field at 12th Street this coming week but will be back in action a week from today when they welcome Wheeling Post 1 for a huge Area One showdown.