Zone 4 American Legion baseball: Redhawks recruit leads Festus past Jackson

Sunday, July 29, 2012
Jackson's Cody Harris singles against Festus during the eighth inning of their American Legion Zone 4 game Saturday at Capaha Field. Check out more photos from the game at (Fred Lynch)

Jackson Post 158 was bounced from the Zone 4 Senior American Legion baseball tournament with its second shutout defeat in the five-team, double-elimination event.

A talented left-hander headed to Southeast Missouri State did in Jackson on Saturday night on a mound he hopes to become quite familiar with over the next few years.

Alex Winkelman fired a three-hitter to help Festus Post 253 beat Jackson 4-0 in a losers bracket game at Capaha Field.

"He was as good as advertised," Jackson coach Mark Lewis said.

Winkelman, a 2012 Crystal City High School graduate who has signed to play for Southeast, was in complete control. He struck out 10, walked two and allowed just two baserunners over the final six innings.

Festus baserunner Alex Winkelman steals second base before the tag by Jackson second baseman Ryan O'Rear during the first inning of their American Legion Zone 4 game Saturday at Capaha Field. (Fred Lynch)

"I do like this field," said a smiling Winkelman, who helped lead Festus to zone titles at spacious Capaha the past two summers. "It plays big. There's a lot of room in the outfield. I look forward to playing here" for Southeast.

Three-time defending state champion Festus remained alive for its fifth consecutive zone crown thanks to Winkelman's gem, but it was going to take a lot of work.

Festus (30-6) played Ballwin later Saturday night in the losers bracket final that still was under way at press time. That winner advanced to today's 2 p.m. championship round and needs to beat Creve Coeur twice.

Winkelman felt it was important for him to pitch all nine innings against Jackson (37-17) because Festus needed as many arms available as possible after being sent into the losers bracket by Ballwin on Friday.

"I was trying to pace myself, trying to make sure I could go all nine innings," Winkelman said. "I was ready to go. A do-or-die situation is a time you want to be pitching."

Jackson relief pitcher Joe Elfrink delivers to a Festus batter during the eighth inning Saturday at Capaha Field.

Winkelman, who plays center field when he's not pitching, set down 11 straight before allowing a leadoff walk in the seventh inning. He gave up a two-out infield single in the eighth inning but finished with a flourish by striking out the side in the ninth.

"I was throwing a slider I used to have," Winkelman said. "They were swinging over the top of it. I kept them off balance."

Cody Harris went 2 for 3, both singles, to lead Jackson's offense. Cody Heisserer singled for Post 158's other hit.

"He had good offspeed and spotted his stuff," Harris said about Winkelman. "He did well."

Jackson only had more than one runner on base in one inning, the third, but a double play ended that threat. Post 158 only had two runners the rest of the way and wound up stranding just three on the bases.

"We just didn't snuff out anything," Lewis said. "You give up four runs, you expect to be in it. But it's a credit to him [Winkelman]."

Jackson left-hander Ian Householder allowed nine hits and four runs over 7 2/3 innings. He struck out six, walked four and hit two batters.

Joe Elfrink worked 1 1/3 perfect innings after firing two hitless innings during Friday's 13-8 win over host Cape Girardeau.

"Ian did a good job, and Joe shut them down," Lewis said.

Festus grabbed the lead in the top of the first inning.

Winkelman, who walked twice, was hit twice, stole two bases and scored two runs, was hit by a pitch leading off. He stole second and scored on a one-out single by Caleb Wilkerson.

Chris Lamprecht's RBI single in the third inning made it 2-0. Winkelman got plenty of insurance in the sixth inning when Connor Eisenbeis delivered a two-run double with two outs.

Jackson suffered a three-hit shutout for the second time in the tournament, including against Creve Coeur in the opening round.

"The pitchers were good," Harris said. "They shut us down. We just didn't play to our potential."

Lewis had few complaints after a season that saw Jackson win just its second district title and first since 2005.

"I'm proud of the kids, regardless of the outcome" in the zone tournament, Lewis said.

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