Defense shined for American Legion Post 201's Juniors throughout much of Wednesday's game at Douglas Freeman High School, but two key innings - the first and the last - ultimately led to Post 125 walking-off 3-2 for the victory in the tightly contested matchup.
Outside of the first inning in which 125 took a 2-1 lead, Post 201's defense was airtight up until the final frame. 201's starting pitcher Matthew Layman struck out six in six innings pitched, initiated two 1-3 plays, caught a floating comebacker in the fifth and completed a 3-1 play with a catch in transition in the sixth. He kept batters off-balance late in the game with his breaking-ball pitches.
Layman also put the first scoring run of the game on base with his walk in the top of the first. Layman's courtesy runner Max Altieri scored to make it 1-0 when his teammate Luke Burkhart hit a grounder to second base and 125's attempted 4-3 play deflected off of the first baseman's glove.
Post 125 took away the lead with the help of a couple of errors, a base hit, a stolen base and a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first. But 201 settled in, allowing only two runners on base in the fourth inning and none in the second, third, fifth and sixth frames.
Defensive plays included Will Karanian going to one knee as he tracked down and caught a flyball in left field to complete a three-up, three-down second inning for Post 201. Catcher Zach Smith also reeled in a pop fly near home plate in the fourth.
The defense's momentum eventually shifted to the offense in the top of the seventh; after reaching first base on a walk, Sam Shevrin stole both second and third, then scored off of Henry Bowman landing the ball in play in right field against two outs. The two teams entered the bottom of the seventh with the game all tied up at 2-2.
Facing a new pitcher, Post 125 loaded the bases on two walks - one intentional - and an error. From there, the home team knocked a groundball single up the middle to bring home the walk-off run.