GRAYVILLE -- Coming off a doubleheader just a day prior, not many arms were left available for the Grayville Post 696 pitching rotation on Monday evening.
They were set to host the Carmi Sr. Legion and although they were short handed, they emerged victorious in narrow fashion, defeating district foe Carmi 7-6 on a humid Monday night.
Post 696 pitcher Jarrett Lewis was summoned for the start and didn't have a tremendous start, but settled in. Lewis allowed a two-out solo shot to Carmi's three-hole hitter in the top of the first, putting Carmi ahead 1-0 in the top of the first inning.
After being blanked in the first inning, his Post 696 bats came alive and helped support the cause.
Grayville erupted for five runs in the ensuing three innings, first a near homer by Levi Stockton, that went all of 310 feet to left field, but not far enough to leave the park, instead turning into a two RBI single. In the third inning Mount Carmel's Lucas Hall provided additional run support, plating home a pair on a two RBI double.
Carmi finally blemished Lewis once again in the fourth inning, narrow the deficit to 5-2 heading into the fifth inning.
For Lewis, he began to tire down in the fifth inning and it became apparent. Carmi knocked Lewis around for four runs, grabbing their first lead in the game since leading 1-0 -- now leading 6-5. Lewis escaped the inning without allowing additional damage courtesy of a flyout and a short grounder to the mound.
After relinquishing the lead, Smith called his group together for a message prior to hitting in the bottom of the fifth. His message, don't change the approach.
"I was telling them to stay focused," Smith recalled. "We're doing good at the plate, if they want to give us walks, take the walks, take advantage of the opportunities. We did just that so that was great."
They bought into his message and did a tremendous job of backing up their pitcher once again. Post 696 began the inning with a leadoff double from Mount Carmel's Adam Stoneberger, immediately putting Grayville in tremendous shape. Stoneberger would advance on a wild pitch and would score on an RBI single by Lewis, who supported his own cause. Lewis proved to be a menace on the basepath, stealing second and third in the next at bat, positioning Grayville for a sacrifice fly opportunity, which Cole Neeley converted on, with Post 696 now reclaiming the lead at 7-6 to end the fifth inning.
Post 696 head coach Shea Smith elected to supplant Lewis with Ty Lane in the sixth inning and Lane pitched a solid inning. He allowed a pair of walks, but forced a pair of flyouts and a popup to end the inning and hold the lead in the top half of the sixth.
After the two teams each went scoreless in the sixth inning, Carmi was now posed with a do-or-die top of the seventh, trailing by just one run. Smith called upon then shortstop Nathaniel Wilson to put the finishing touches on the game.
Wilson allowed a base hit to begin the inning, but to his credit he settled. The runner advanced to second and into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Wilson but the clamps on the remaining three hitters, scoring a pair of strikeouts and a popup to end the ballgame.
Lewis scored the victory, having thrown five innings of eight hit, four walk baseball, while allowing six runs, though just four were earned. The stats were somewhat deceiving though, as Lewis tossed a quality outing prior to the Carmi fifth inning scoring outburst.
Hall starred for the Post 696 bats, posting a 2-for-3 day with a pair of doubles, two RBIs and a run scored. Grayville posted just six hits on the day, but were patient at the plate, earning seven walks in the game to help provide scoring opportunities.
"I was really big on Lucas getting out and playing, he has family in Grayville too so that's why I definitely wanted him out," Smith spoke of Hall. "I need him to produce, I expect big things out of him next year. This really helps a lot seeing what they can do. These are varsity pitchers here in Legion, so knowing he can do that, showing he's capable, it's great seeing him produce like that."
Overall it's a solid bounce back game for Post 696, who suffered a pair of tough losses in a Sunday doubleheader to Harrisburg. It's a nice foundational block to build upon as the summer season winds down. They've been short handed much of the season and are extremely young for a Senior Legion team, but Smith expects to be at full strength on Wednesday and likes his team's potential if they can piece it together.
"Up and down still," Smith spoke of his team. "[If we] eliminate that one bad inning and we'll win some ballgames. We're not a team that's going to score a ton of runs, but we're a team that can do a lot of things defensively. We're usually missing one or two, we were missing two again today. One of our top three hitters, he'll be back again Wednesday. We still haven't seen Fairfield yet, come Wednesday we have district games, we have Carmi for district games on Friday. We're right there in the middle of the pack, if we can get ourselves figured out. It looks like Fairfield's on top right now, but everyone feels like it's anyone's ballgame when you get down to your 4-5-6 pitchers."
"We're kind of finding ourselves a little bit, still getting into the groove of things. We're still a really young team, we're still playing a lot of 16, 17-year-olds, it's good to see them execute when time comes."
An unpredictably stormy summer has negated many of Post 696's games, tremendously stunting their flow this season. Hopefully the rain can hold off for the next couple weeks as District play nears.
They'll close out the week with Fairfield on Wednesday at 6 p.m. for a home doubleheader, followed by a road trip to face Carmi in a rematch on Friday at 6 p.m. in a doubleheader. They'll close their season with a road trip to Boonville on Monday, July 8 at 6 p.m., prior to entering District play. Some of those games may be in question with additional forecasted thunderstorms.
"The rest of the week, [I'm] really unsure with what's going to happen with the weather that way."
C -- 1 0 0 1 4 0 0 -- 6
G -- 0 2 2 1 2 0 X -- 7
Post 696 notable hitting: Hall 2-for-3, 2 2B, 2 RBIs, R. Lewis 1-for-2, RBI, R. Jolley 0-for-1, RBI, R. Neeley 1-for-3, RBI, R. Stoneberger 1-for-2, 2B, R. Stockton 1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBIs.
Post 696 pitching: WP -- Lewis 5 IP, 8 H, 4 BB, 1 K, 6 R, 4 ER.