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Festus edges Eureka to reach championship round
The defending state champion won 9-7 on Saturday
The Festus American Legion baseball team is admittedly not quite as powerful as the 2009 edition that won zone, state and regional titles while advancing to the Legion World Series.
But Festus is still hard to beat.
Festus moved into the championship round of the Zone 4 tournament at Capaha Field by rallying past Eureka 9-7 in Saturday's winners bracket final.
That came after Festus staged a dramatic rally in Friday's opening round, scoring four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to stun Dunklin County 6-5.
"What a couple of games we've had and what a tremendous game today," Festus coach Pat Bone said.
Festus (23-3) will play at 5 p.m. today for the championship of the five-team, double-elimination event. A loss would force Monday's if-necessary title contest.
Eureka (34-8) will play at 2 p.m. today in the losers bracket final. The runner-up to Festus in last year's zone tournament needs three straight wins to claim the crown and earn a state tournament berth.
"We're not going to take anything for granted," Bone said. "We know all the teams left are very capable.
"This is by far the toughest zone we've been in since 2005."
Saturday's back-and-forth affair saw Eureka score three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to take a 7-6 lead.
Festus came right back in the top of the eighth with a three-run uprising of its own.
Nathan Kaminski, the No. 9 hitter, drew a one-out walk. Leadoff batter Logan Bone followed with an RBI double.
Brandon Neel's two-out single plated Bone with the go-ahead run. It was Neel's fifth hit in five plate appearances. Neel stole second and third, then came home on Ryan Yuengel's infield single to make it 9-7.
"What a game Brandon had," Pat Bone said.
The same could be said for Travis Hayes, who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings for the win. He did not allow a hit or run while striking out four and walking one.
That came after Hayes also notched Friday's victory with five-plus stellar innings of relief.
Hayes, a key member of last season's team, couldn't pitch until early July this year after suffering a shoulder injury late in his senior campaign at Crystal City High School.
"That's amazing," Bone said. "We really didn't think we were going to have him this year."
Logan Bone and Caleb Wilkerson each added three of Festus' 16 hits.
Aaron Schnurbusch had three of Eureka's nine hits.
"That was a dandy. There was no margin for error," Pat Bone said.