Legion Tourney: St. Peters Rallies to Upend Top-Seed West O’Fallon
St. Peters Post 313 beats West O'Fallon, 6-2, in the District 9 North Division Championship Tournament at Westhoff Park.
O’FALLON—One of the great old adages in baseball is two-out hits will get you into heaven.
If that turns out to be true, then several members of the St. Peters Post #313 American Legion team earned their wings on Friday in a 6-2 upset over top-seeded West O’Fallon in a District 9 North Division Championship Tournament game at Westhoff Park.
“I’ve been telling these guys since the beginning of the year, ‘you’re the best team I’ve coached’,” Post 313 head coach Marty Clements said. “I’ve only been doing it three years here, but up and down the lineup, we’re (tough).”
The victory allowed fifth-seeded St. Peters to advance to the winner’s bracket championship game on Saturday evening at Westhoff Park in O’Fallon where it will play rival St. Charles, which won Friday night’s other semifinal, 4-1, over Wentzville.
The winner of the St. Peters-St. Charles contest will advance to the District 9 North championship finals, which will be played on Sunday afternoon at Westhoff. If necessary, another game will be played on Monday.
“It feels good being here,” Clements said. “To beat these guys, they’re the No. 1 team seeding-wise. But my guys right now, the way they’re hitting, I’ll take them against anybody right now.”
Post 313 did its best hitting in the sixth inning, when St. Peters broke a 2-2 tie with a series of two-out base hits that led to the four runs that decided the game.
St. Peters starting pitcher Tyler Rutledge, a senior-to-be at Fort Zumwalt South, got the inning started with a one-out hit off of West O’Fallon starter Mike Wilkinson.
Rutledge seemed like he might be stuck at first base with two outs, until Fort Zumwalt East senior-to-be C.J. Vaccaro grounded an infield hit that moved Rutledge to third.
Leadoff man Nick Pautler, a senior-to-be at Lutheran High, then delivered what proved to be the game-winning hit. He drilled a single to center field that scored both Rutledge and Vaccaro, who had stolen second one pitch earlier, and gave Post 313 a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
The hitting star of the night was 2011 Lutheran High grad Austin Holtgrieve, who had four hits and was on base five times. He drove in Pautler with a single to left that made the score 5-2 for Post 313.
Holtgrieve then stole second, and scored on another two-out hit by 2011 Fort Zumwalt East graduate Eric Keling.
“It feels good beating these guys after losing to them on Monday night,” Clements said. “We’ve got a lot of Zumwalt South and Zumwalt East kids, and this is kind of a rival for them.”
The loss was especially bitter for West O’Fallon to take after it jumped out to a 2-0 lead thanks to a four-hit rally of its own in the bottom of the first.
Center fielder Robert Figueira and pitcher Wilkinson drove in the runs for the Jaguars, who fell into the tournament’s losers bracket, and will now face archrival O’Fallon in an elimination game at Westhoff Park at noon on Saturday.
“That’s the great thing about baseball,” West O’Fallon head coach A.J. Koenig said. “You don’t have to wait a week to get a chance to redeem yourselves. We’ve got another game bright and early tomorrow. And I think we’ll be ready.”
After falling behind 2-0, St. Peters tied the game in the fourth when 2011 Zumwalt South grad Blake Hetelle scored from third on a Wilkinson wild pitch, and 2010 Zumwalt East grad Taylor Aldridge scored on a ground ball from teammate Tyler Davis of Zumwalt South.
West O’Fallon did manage a golden scoring chance in the seventh when it loaded the bases with nobody out.
But Post 313’s Rutledge, the winning pitcher, made sure West O’Fallon didn’t do anything with its opportunity when he induced a fly ball out, a fielder’s choice and a weak ground ball to end the inning.
“Rutledge, man, he threw his heart out tonight,” Clements said. “He threw 30-something pitches in that first inning. And I threw him more than I wanted to tonight, but he went out there and gutted it out.”
There are four games scheduled for Westhoff Park on Saturday as West O’Fallon will play O’Fallon at noon, Elsberry will play Wentzville at 2:30 p.m., St. Peters will play St. Charles at 5 p.m. and the winning teams from the two early games will play an elimination game in the nightcap at 7:30 p.m.