Post 287 ends season with disappointing loss

Post 287 ends season with disappointing loss

RANTOUL — Garry Smith was still optimistic about his club's chances heading into Thursday's elimination game against Peoria Post 2.

But less than 15 hours later, that hopeful vibe from the Rantoul Post 287 manager twisted into a thoroughly negative 180-degree turnaround as Rantoul was eliminated from the tournament with a 7-1 loss early Thursday afternoon.

"I'm a straight shooter. That's the way I've been all year long, and that's the way I'm going to continue to be," Smith said. "We were not real enthusiastic to be on the baseball field (Thursday). We were flat. We made a few unusual errors. We were a half-step slow. We just did not play well.

"We did not play well, and it's frustrating, but what else can I say? (Wednesday) we battled and played hard, but (Thursday) it didn't seem like we played with any enthusiasm."

A day after opening the state tournament with a 6-4 loss to Edwardsville Post 199, Rantoul (9-24) received a solid start from Luke Fitton, who gave up four runs (three earned) on five hits with six strikeouts and two walks across 5 1 / 3 innings. But a combination of seven wild pitches/passed balls from the pitcher-catcher combo of Fitton and JT Jones and four errors highlighted sloppy play all around.

"We were just flat," Smith said, "and didn't get the job done."

Rantoul left 12 runners on base, stranded a runner at second in six of the nine innings, left the bases loaded twice and mustered just five hits with the lone run coming on a bases-loaded walk.

Not having its rotation at full strength was another crippling factor in Rantoul's early exit. Top pitcher Adam Crites — who allowed three runs (two earned) on four hits in 1 2 / 3 innings of relief — was not at full strength after tossing around 50 pitches in a scrimmage at a University of Illinois baseball camp Wednesday, and Colton Carr and Brett Cagle were each out with injuries.

"Luke pitched well. I thought he had good command. Adam came in, and I thought he was a little tired you could tell. He wasn't his normal self," Smith said. "I think it hurt us a little bit by him not being at full speed. With Colton Carr out — and Cagle, of course, out most of the year — I think it definitely hurt the rotation of the pitching. And it did affect our team."

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