MANCHESTER — In its first Legion playoff game, Manchester Union Underground appeared to be in control. They held a two-run lead heading into the final inning, three outs away from victory against Franklin County Post 1.
Some defensive woes and a couple walked batters sparked a three run top of the seventh for Post 1, propelling the Northern Division No. 3 seed to a 6-5 win over Manchester.
Joey McCoy toed the rubber for Manchester from the start, and pitched into the seventh.
McCoy and Post 1 starter Taylor Yates made quick work of batters through the first two innings.
McCoy ran into some trouble in the third, walking the first two batters and putting runners on the corners as a pitch got away from catcher Dylan Poddick. McCoy settled in and induced a ground ball to shortstop to the following batter for the force out at second, plating the first run of the contest. Jackie Porter made the strongest contact of the day for the Post 1 bats in the following at bat, lacing a ground-rule double over the right center fence on one hop for the second run of the game.
That’s when things got interesting as Post 1 tried to play small ball. Joe Nachawecski laid a bunt down the first base line as the runner on third broke for home on the suicide squeeze. As the ball hugged the foul line, McCoy charged toward the ball and in the process ran over Nachawecski who was hustling down the line toward first base.
After a meeting between all three umpires, Nachawecski was called out for interference but the run counted, bringing Post 1’s lead to 3-0 with two outs in the inning. During the next at bat, Jack McCoy helped get his brother out of the jam by making a diving catch on a soft line drive to third base for the final out of the third.
Manchester manager Eddie Lewicki’s team has been plagued by the big innings for most of the season.
“This game was a reflection of our season,” Lewicki said. “We played great baseball most of that game, two innings we struggled and made mistakes, and we gave up three runs in each of those innings, and that was it.”
Manchester battled back to tie things in the bottom of the third. Coleman Reece reached base thanks to an error, and both the McCoy’s were plunked by pitches with one out to load the bases for Will Addington.
Addington has been one of Manchester’s most consistent and lethal bats all season long, and he showed up big in this spot by ripping a line drive just over the centerfielder’s head, clearing the bases for a three-run double.
Reece would give Manchester its first lead in the following inning on a one-out groundout to short that plated Trevor Greene.
Greene returned the favor and scored Joey McCoy for an insurance run in the fifth on a line drive single to left, and Manchester seemed to be in control.
Then, things started to unravel in the top of the seventh. McCoy walked the first two batters he saw in the inning, which brought Lewicki out to the mound for a visit. After a long talk, McCoy stayed in the game.
McCoy had a two ball, two strike count to the next batter he faced when he fired in what appeared to be strike three, though the strike zone appeared to suddenly shrink as ball three was called. The full-count pitch was right over the plate and had been a strike all game long, but in this instance ball four was called. That loaded the bases and pulled McCoy from the contest for Max Brownlee.
Brownlee’s first pitch of the game bounced before reaching the plate and Poddick wasn’t able to knock it down, easily scoring the runner on third.
The batter hit a routine fly ball to deep right field that was destined to score the tying run from third on a sac fly, but the ball fell out of the outfielder’s glove tying the game on an error.
Brownlee forced a ground-ball double play to the following batter, but it scored the go-ahead runner from third. He got out of the inning after forcing another ground ball to the next hitter.
Sam Steinman started off the bottom of the seventh with a long single that hit the right field fence. Cannon Petry came in to pinch-run, but didn’t make it past second base as Post 1 settled in to retire the next three batters in order and close out the victory.
Manchester was scheduled to host Rutland Post 31 Thursday at 5 p.m. in an elimination game as both team’s battle in a loser’s bracket matchup, but Thursday’s rain forced the postponement of that contest. As of Thursday afternoon, there was no set make-up date for that game.
Lewicki told his guys, despite the tough loss, that their season isn’t over yet.
“The best part about this tournament is that we’re not out right now,” Lewicki said. “You can make runs even out of the loser’s bracket.”