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Paola falls to Baldwin on late rally

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Sometimes, things are just too easy, for the Paola American Legion Baseball team, it was too much of a good thing, as they cruised through the first three and a half innings, posting a 9-1 lead at Baldwin and standing just a few outs away from a league tournament opening round victory on the road on Tuesday, July 13, 2010.

Paola had just posted a seven run third inning, and added another run in the top of the fourth to grab a 9-1 lead when the tides turned and instead of everything going right for the legion team, it all started to unravel and when the game ended as darkness began to fall in Baldwin, the home team had picked up a walk off 12-11 victory over a stunned Paola team.

WLH0241 But for the first half of the game, it was all going Paola’s way, and in a big way. Paola picked up a single run in the top of the second inning as Austin Dent tripled and scored on a balk to give Paola a 1-0 lead. Baldwin posted a single run in the bottom of the second to tie the score, but then in the third, Paola suddenly found an offensive rhythm and for an inning at least the hits and runs came easy.

After a lead off strike out by Jeremiah Daniels, Paola loaded the bases on a walk to Tanner Staats, a hit batter to Matt Petelin and another walk to Matt Dickey. Pursley pushed a tremendous bunt up the right side of the infield, which was flagged down by the Baldwin pitcher who tossed to first for the second out of the inning, but on the play, Staats and Dickey scored giving Paola a 3-1 lead with two outs. Dent followed with a walk and then Seth Kern singled driving in Dickey. Conner Kresin kept the hit parade going with a single, scoring Dent and making the score 5-1. Austin Ohlmeier walked to again load the bases before Daniels tripled, driving in three more runs and giving Paola an 8-1 lead. The inning ended with a Staats strike out, but Paola was in control at 8-1.

Baldwin failed to score in the bottom of the third, and Paola pushed across another run in the top of the fourth when with two out Pursley walked and came around to score on a single and poor defense by Baldwin. Kern hit a fly ball to center to end the inning, but after four and a half innings, Paola was firmly in control sitting on a 9-1 lead, and needing to get through just six more outs to take an early victory.

But any hopes of a run rule game ended in the bottom of the fourth, as Baldwin took advantage of Paola sudden loss of the ability to pitch, catch and throw as they allowed Baldwin to score six times on five hits, the biggest of which was a monster two run home run to open the inning. In addition, Paola had two errors a walk and a hit batter and when the dust had settled on the inning, instead of looking at a run rule victory, Paola was clinging to a 9-7 lead and just hoping to stay alive to finish the game with a win.

To their credit Paola came back in the top of the fifth to score two runs to extend the lead to 11-7, but that was the end of the scoring for Paola in the game. In the inning, Ohlmeier laced a one out single, and was followed by walk to Daniels putting runners on first and second. Staats singled to load the bases, and Petelin drew a walk to score Ohlmeier and give Paola a 10-7 lead. After a Dickey foul ball pop out to first, Pursley worked the Baldwin pitcher for a walk, scoring Daniels and giving Paola the four run 11-7 lead.

Baldwin continued to chip away at the Paola lead, scoring a pair of runs in the bottom of the fifth to pull back to within two at 11-9 and then plated a single run in the bottom of the sixth to get to within one run at 11-10.

Paola could not answer, and the game went to the bottom of the seventh, with Paola clinging to an 11-10 lead. Pursley had come on to pitch in the bottom of the sixth inning and for most of the seventh it looked like the game would end well for Paola. He coaxed the Baldwin lead off batter to ground out to second, and when the second batter hit another ground ball, this time to short, it looked like there would be two out and no one on for Baldwin. But the throw from short was a bit low and got past the Paola first baseman, allowing the tying run to reach base safely.

A fly ball out to center field moved Paola to within one out of victory, but the next Baldwin batter worked the count full and eventually drew a walk to put the winning run on base. To Pursley’s credit, it looked for all intents and purposes that he had gotten out of the inning but a called third strike on what looked like a perfect pitch did not come, and the Baldwin batter took the next ball for the walk.

There’s a saying about late inning walks coming back to haunt a team, and Paola is living proof of that fact, as Baldwin made Paola pay for the error and walk as the next batter stroked a double to right center field, both runners scored on the play, and Baldwin celebrated the improbable 12-11 come from behind victory.

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