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Balisteri's walk-off homer lifts Post 201 over Post 284 10-8 in 8

Balisteri's walk-off homer lifts Post 201 over Post 284 10-8 in 8

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Two outs in extra innings with runners on base and the opposing team leading.

Just another Thursday night at Powhatan High School.

The visiting Post 284 Bucs grabbed an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth when Bobbie Johnson delivered his third hit of the night.

Post 201 turned to Alex Balisteri.

The last time he batted on a Thursday night against two outs with the game on the line, the Walters State baseball player and James River High School graduate smacked a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.

This time around, he had teammates Caleb Kersey and Brandon Eike on the bases when he rocketed the 2-1 fastball high, deep and over both the leaping outfielder and the top yellow beam of the right-field fence. Balisteri rounded the bases on his no-doubter and jogged back to his teammates at home plate, completing his three-run walk-off home run to catapult Post 201 past the Bucs, 10-8, in eight innings.

The home team's triumph marked the second straight Thursday-night game and second straight home game in which it walked-off with the win against two outs in extra innings after going into the bottom of the final frame facing a deficit.

"This has been really good baseball," Post 201 head coach Eric Mead said. "There's a lot of good baseball players on both sides, and it's fun watching not just our team play, but the other teams play as well."

Balisteri, who joined Eike in leading Post 201 with two home runs apiece this season, said he'd been seeing the ball pretty well, so his focus was on putting a good swing on it.

"I was just trying to hit the ball hard," he said, "try and hit it in the gap."

At first he thought the ball "was for sure gone" with his teammates in the dugout yelling "Ball game!" But then he saw that the ball kept going up like a pop fly, so he started sprinting around first base.

"But luckily it got out."

Post 284 seized a 3-0 lead on a three-run dinger from Drew Camp in the opening half-inning, but after Post 201's James Nelson sent the ball bouncing across right field to plate teammates Balisteri and Christian Chambers in the bottom of the frame, the home team never let the Bucs take a lead that was larger than two runs.

Young pitchers Kendrick Sheffield and Carter Dawson were a big part of why.

The 15-year-old Sheffield, a rising sophomore at Powhatan High School, had come into Thursday's game having thrown around 100 pitches for travel ball the previous weekend. He was tasked with starting on the mound against college-aged players Camp, Nathan Tuck and Brandon Pond, and while 284 grabbed that early 3-0 lead, Sheffield adjusted by reaching out further and trying to hook it, and he ended up holding the visitors to two more runs, three more hits and no more walks across his nine outs on the mound through the first three frames.

His curveball was working well for him.

"I was nervous the first bit, but then I got my wits towards the end," he said, "and pitched like I should've."

Dawson delivered his best showing on the hill this summer. Taking over in the fourth inning, Dawson held the opposing team to one hit and one unearned run while striking out one and allowing four walks in two and 2/3 innings pitched. He had talked to his coach, who said he was "opening up too much."

"So I just had to keep my front shoulder down, finish through my form, throw more strikes," said Dawson, whose two-seam fastball and curveball were working well for him Thursday. 

"It's really exciting not only for American Legion baseball but for Powhatan baseball to have those young guys come out here and pitch in this arena," Mead said of Sheffield and Dawson. "I think these two tonight are very promising pitchers in the future for not only 201 but also Powhatan High School."

Dawson's approach was to throw strikes and let his defense work.

And the defense definitely dug in.

Christian Chambers fielded an incoming grounder, stepped onto third base to force out the inbound runner from second and then threw to first to complete the double play and draw the top of the fifth to an end, marking Post 284's first inning without a run.

Stone Talley got to claim 201's next double play all on his own when he caught a lineout and then stepped onto second base to force out the inbound runner in the top of the sixth.

And after he missed snagging what would've been a spectacular diving catch the previous game, Caleb Kersey in the top of the seventh ran and dove to the ground again in going after another fast-traveling flyball.

He came up with the ball clutched in his glove, completing the out.

"He did an outstanding job," Mead said of Kersey before adding: "Everybody on all the teams are rusty, and when you've been sitting around since March, it takes you a while to get back into the groove and get back into a rhythm of playing the game.

"I think that they're starting to do that across the board on all the teams," Mead said. "I'm excited for the last half of the season. I think it's going to be some really, really good baseball."

After Post 201 trailed the Bucs 6-4 through four-and-a-half innings, Talley in the bottom of the fifth singled down the third-base line to bring home Balisteri, and then he scored a run himself off the sacrifice fly from Trevor Waters to knot up the ballgame.

Eike came through in the bottom of the sixth when he clocked a go-ahead double into left field, scoring Chambers.

But Camp helped Post 284 stay alive in the top of the seventh when he reached first base on a walk, stole both second and third and raced home on a wild pitch to tie the game.

Post 284 grabbed an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth when Chris Fredette walked, dashed to second base on a wild pitch and sprinted across home plate on Johnson's line-drive double into left field for his third hit of the night in three at-bats.

But Kersey, Eike and Balisteri came through in the clutch the following half-inning, with Kersey and Eike getting on base and Balisteri driving all three of them home. Balisteri's three-run blast marked the fourth home run for Post 201 in as many games played this summer.

"The bats don't stop," Mead said. "If we can get the pitching to pitch with the bats, then we're going to be right where we need to be. They didn't give up."

Post 201 this Tuesday (July 16, 7 p.m. at Powhatan High School) will host Post 137, who this past Tuesday rallied past Post 201 on a three-run sixth inning to narrowly win 7-6.

"We owe them a little bit," Mead said.

For Balisteri, his goal this summer is to get coach Mead as many wins as he can.

"He was really fighting for our season to happen . . . without him, we wouldn't even be playing," Balisteri said of Mead. "That just shows how much he cares about us and how much he loves ball, and so I'm just trying to perform for him and the coaches."

BOX      123     456     78      R    H    E

284       311     100     11      8    7    0

201       220     021     03    10  10    1

Highlights: (201) Alex Balisteri 2-4, 3 RBI, 3 runs, HR, James Nelson 2-4, 2 RBI, double, Trevor Waters 2-3, double, RBI, run, Brandon Eike 1-3, 2 RBI, run, double, Christian Chambers 2 runs, 3 walks, Caleb Kersey 2 runs, 2 walks, (284), Bobbie Johnson 3-3, 2 RBI, double, Drew Camp 1-4, HR, 3 RBI, 2 runs, Chris Fredette 3 runs, Brandon Pond 2 runs, Bryce Thacker 2-4

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