The Jefferson City Post 5 Legion baseball teams spend most summer weekends playing in out-of-town tournaments. Two of those teams took advantage of an opportunity to play each other on their home field Tuesday night.
The Post 5 Juniors won both games of a doubleheader against the Post 5 Freshmen at the American Legion Post 5 Sports Complex, taking the opener in quick fashion for a 5-1 victory before winning Game 2 by a score of 14-4 in five innings.
"This was an awesome opportunity for us," Post 5 Juniors coach Shawn Kesel said. "We were both off last weekend and we're both going into the GMB Nationals this upcoming weekend, so this was a great warmup for us."
Both teams were eager to get on the field for the first time in more than a week. The Post 5 Freshmen played three games in the BTL Super Select Invitational two weekends ago at Windsor: Imperial High School, going 1-1-1 in pool play.
"We wanted to give our pitchers some innings and get the boys out there," Post 5 Freshmen coach Henry Bax said. "We don't get much of a chance to play at home because there aren't a lot of Central Missouri teams to play."
The Post 5 Juniors played just two innings June 25 in the Fike Jr. Wood Bat Tournament at Blue Springs before rain canceled the tournament. Tuesday was their first competition in 11 days.
"It had been a while," Kesel said. "We sat around all day Saturday just to get rained out. We were ready to get going."
The doubleheader served as a tuneup for both teams' pitchers. A total of 13 players took the mound, with only one pitcher throwing more than two innings.
"We'll get them up to speed for this weekend," Kesel said.
The Post 5 Juniors scored three runs on two errors in the first inning of Game 1. Aiden Boeckmann scored on a double play and Lane Wilson scored on Luke Cavender's single in the second inning to extend the lead to 5-0.
Nate Roark was the exception to the two-inning limit. He pitched the first three innings for the Post 5 Juniors, striking out seven of the 10 batters he faced.
The Post 5 Freshmen were held hitless until the top of the fifth inning, when Easton Stuckenschnieder singled to right field with one out. Garrett Ickes hit a leadoff single in the sixth and scored on Conner Bax's sacrifice fly to center field, making the score 5-1.
"We've gone into some tournaments where we haven't seen quality pitching like this," Henry Bax said. "We wanted to amp up our schedule toward the end of the season, so they could see (tough pitching). I don't think our bats are responding just quite yet, but we've been talking a lot about plate approaches.
"If you're going to get better, you have to face good pitching."
Both teams combined for seven hits in the opener, which only took about 80 minutes to play. Game 2 went just five innings, but there were a total of 19 hits.
For the Post 5 Juniors — who scored at least two runs in each inning — Max Buscher went 4-for-4 with three singles and one double, while Jace Kesel, Patrick Baker, Cavender and Jack Robertson each had two hits.
"We struggled with the slower pitching at first, but they turned it around about halfway through that game and started hitting a little bit," Shawn Kesel said. "In the second game, they really came around and started swinging the bat well."
Buscher and Robertson combined to retire the first nine Post 5 Freshmen batters in Game 2, as Buscher had one strikeout and Robertson had two.
However, in the fourth inning, the Post 5 Freshmen batted around the lineup, scoring four runs. Ty Kiesling finished the game with two singles, the team's only hits in the contest.
"I know there was a string of walks in there too, but I did like that they were starting to think for themselves," Bax said. "When we couldn't keep up with the pitching, we laid down a few bunts and made them play it, and we got a couple runners on that way."
Kase Winegar struck out four Post 5 Juniors in two innings in Game 2, while Cody Pickett also struck out four batters in two innings in Game 1 for the Post 5 Freshmen.
"Hopefully this was a learning experience," Bax said.
Tuesday was the only time the Post 5 Freshmen will play in Jefferson City, but the Post 5 Juniors will host the Zone Tournament next weekend.
Both teams are playing this weekend in The Nationals, a tournament hosted by Greater Midwest Baseball in Chesterfield and Ellisville.
The Post 5 Juniors (9-5-2) open pool play against JC Independent at 8 p.m. Friday in the 16U division at Ellsville.
"We want to go up there and make a good showing," Kesel said, "and get some good quality at-bats and pitching going into our Zone Tournament."
The Post 5 Freshmen (9-4-1) will play in the 15U division and begin pool play against the Top Tier Batbusters at 6 p.m. Friday in Chesterfield.
"We've been playing a lot all season," said Bax, whose team will finish its season with the Legion state tournament next weekend in Ballwin. "Now it's time to set our focus on coming back and hopefully bringing Post 5 a state championship."
Both teams will play two more pool-play games Saturday, with bracket play to conclude the tournament Sunday.