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Scott County captures District 14 title
Post 369 claimed the title with a 7-6 victory over top-seeded Dunklin County.
CHAFFEE, Mo. -- Scott County American Legion coach Tom Dirnberger told his team before the start of Sunday's District 14 championship game in Chaffee, Mo., to be ready to play top-seeded Dunklin County twice.
Dirnberger planned to have his top two pitchers ready for the second game if it became necessary, and his plan came to fruition as Jon Simpher and Andy Stephens helped second-seeded Scott County knock off Dunklin County 7-6 in the second championship game to earn a birth in the zone tournament.
"The speech to them before the game, I said, 'Be ready to play two,'" Dirnberger said. "'If we don't have to play the second one, great. If we do have to play the second one, I don't want anyone to be down.'"
Needing to win both games to move on to the zone tournament, Dunklin County beat Scott County 8-4 in the opening game.
Despite having its ace Simpher on the mound in game two, Scott County Post 369 appeared to be a little down early. Dunklin County came out with a run in the first on a sacrifice fly by Jared Hughes and piled on three more runs in the third.
Simpher easily could have come out of the third unscathed, but an error at shortstop with two outs, followed by two misplayed balls in the outfield, helped Dunklin County take a 4-0 lead.
Post 369 did not stay down for long, scoring three in the bottom of the fourth. Trenton Moses, who hit a two-run home run in the first game Sunday, started the rally with a single. Lucas Dirnberger, the No. 7 hitter, drove in a run, and No. 9 hitter Rusty Hendricks brought home two more with a double down the left field line.
"The whole team contributed," Tom Dirnberger said. "We had trouble with the top of the lineup to start it out. Our good innings started with the No. 6, 7 and 8 hitters, usually."
Lucas Dirnberger started the next run-scoring inning with a bunt single and reached second on an error in the sixth. Dirnberger reached third when Dunklin County pitcher Dustin Crain threw a pickoff throw into center field and eventually came in to tie the game at 4-4.
Crain again found trouble in the seventh, hitting Chad Friend and allowing a single to Shane Menz. Dunklin County fireballer Heath Storey replaced Crain, marking the fourth straight District 14 game Storey had entered in relief for Dunklin County.
The innings -- Storey finished the final three innings of the first championship game and the final 3 1/3 innings on Friday night -- seemed to catch up to the Kennett graduate. Blake Dirnberger greeted Storey with an RBI single for a 5-4 lead, and Moses followed with another sharp RBI single. Lucas Dirnberger finished the scoring in the inning with a two-out RBI bunt single.
"He threw the game before and last night, and we all thought he'd be a little off with his fastball," Tom Dirnberger said. "He really didn't throw his fastball as much this time."
The bunt single for Lucas Dirnberger marked the fourth time he had reached first on a bunt against Dunklin County. Dirnberger also helped Scott County beat Dunklin County on Thursday with a successful sacrifice to win the game in the ninth.
With three hits, two RBIs and a run scored, Dirnberger helped erase any negative thoughts following the opening loss on Sunday. Dirnberger took the loss after walking six in 5 1/3 innings.
"I got to get some payback for my team," Lucas Dirnberger said.
Stephens, who started the seventh in place of Simpher, appeared primed to close out Dunklin County until hitting a rough patch in the eighth. Stephens retired the first two batters, then hit three straight batters to load the bases.
Anthony Patton drove home two with a single to close the gap to 7-6. Hughes walked to load the bases again, but Stephens got Kenny Abernathy to ground out to end the threat.
In the ninth, Brandon Massey reached on an error to lead off the inning and was advanced to second on a sacrifice. Stephens got the next hitter to foul out, and left fielder Chad Friend made the final putout on a ball that looked like it might get down when it left the bat.
"That was really nerve-wracking," Lucas Dirnberger said of the final out. "He [Fiend] doesn't have the greatest speed in the world, but he got there. He's a clutch player."
Stephens picked up the win, his second in the tournament over Dunklin County, by pitching the final three innings. Stephens allowed two hits and two runs. Simpher allowed four runs on eight hits in six innings.
Moses was the offensive star for Scott County with six hits and four RBIs in the two games. Menz added two hits in the second game.
"The Moses kid, he's just phenomenal," Tom Dirnberger said. "He just hits and hits."
Scott County will move on to the zone tournament, which begins on Thursday.
"It feels excellent," Lucas Dirnberger said. "Definitely a shock after losing three players in a season, and one of our best players in Caleb Daughhetee. But we came back and battled the rest of the season."