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Post 80 rallies past Opp

A loss is never a good way to begin a season. The American Legion Post 80 baseball team, however, did just that falling to Opp in the Crispy Chick Memorial Weekend Classic to begin the 2003 season.

Post 80 fell behind Opp early in that game only to rally in the final inning. Opp, however, held on for the win.

A rematch on Wednesday night at Andalusia High School's baseball field was setting up the same way. Opp jumped out to an early lead, scoring four unearned runs, including three in the top of the second inning, for a 3-1 lead.

The score was 4-1 in Opp's favor going into the seventh inning. Post 80 needed a rally and got it for a 5-4 victory unlike the previous meeting between the two squads.

Chase Arrington came up with the game-winning hit on a 2-2 count with runners on second and third with a little help from superstition.

The Post 80 dugout was alive with action as the players got in their "rally positions" and began to shake their hats when the count went to 2-2 with two outs. Deuces were wild.

The theory in baseball is that nothing bad will happen on a 2-2 count because the next pitch will either be out of the strike zone, a foul ball or a base hit. The batter could get out, but the odds are 3-1 in his favor. The Post 80 players removed their hats and began to shake them side-to-side when the count went to 2-2, according to one of baseball's unwritten rules.

The first 2-2 pitch was fouled off on a bunt attempt by Arrington to set the scene for another 2-2 offering from Opp pitcher Langdon Stanley.

Arrington did not miss the second pitch, connecting for an RBI, bloop-single over the right side of the infield to plate Michael Dutton for the winning run.

Arrington did just what Assistant Coach Chris Copeland told him to do, "Spread out in the box, choke up and slap over the second baseman."

Lost in the final at-bat heroics was the pitching performance of Justin Bracewell, who was playing the game with a "slight fracture" in his non-pitching arm.

Bracewell pitched a complete game allowing four runs, none of them earned, on five hits and three walks. He struck out six, including Opp's final four outs.

Head Coach Steve Helms was at least one person who did not overlook Bracewell's performance, especially after the righty told him it was his game and he was not coming out after five innings.

"He kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win it at the end," Helms said after the dramatic rally.

"We played like we had never seen a baseball before," Helms said about the five errors. "He (Bracewell) keep his composure and that is what I am proudest of him for."

The game began with Post 80 going on top 1-0 in the bottom of the first. Trevor Mathews reached on a single, moved to second on a passed ball and then raced to third when the catcher's throw ended up in center field. He scored later in the inning.

Opp responded with three runs in the top of the second for a 3-1 lead. Brad Barton, Lane Fuller and Andrew Harry each scored for Opp as the Post 80 players committed four errors in the inning. Fuller had a line-drive single in the inning.

Opp increased the lead to 4-1 in the top of the fourth inning when Jason Stanley reached on a single and came around to score. Another Post 80 error helped him circle the bases.

The score remained 4-1 until the bottom of the seventh inning.

Neal Patterson led off the inning with a fly out to right field. Cole Sightler followed him with a single down the third-base line. Designated hitter Chaz Maloy then ripped a double into right center field.

Andrew Bryan came up to bat with runners on second and third and flew out to the first baseman in foul territory for the second out of the inning.

Opp was one out away from another win against Post 80, but the visitors never got it.

Will Cammack reached on a walk to load the bases after fouling off a 2-2 pitch, as the caps were shaking in the Post 80 dugout, and then took the next pitch for ball three. Ball four came next and he trotted to first base to load them up.

Michael Dutton got Post 80 within two runs of Opp when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to score Sightler.

Trevor Mathews was the next batter and he also worked the count to 2-2. The shaking hats worked their magic again. Mathews ripped a two-RBI single to tie the game at 4-4. He moved to second on a throw home by Opp.

Arrington then came up with runners on second and third with two outs. Once again, the count went to 2-2 and he came up with the game-winning hit as the hats went from shaking back and forth to being thrown in the air as his teammates rushed the field to congratulate him.

The Post 80 squad returns to action today at a tournament in Troy. Post 80 plays Millbrook at 5 p.m. at the Troy State University baseball field.