Post 21 advances to American Legion baseball state tournament

Winchester Post 21 is back in the American Legion state baseball tournament for the second straight season after a strong showing in the District 16 tournament last week.

Post 21, which finished as the runner-up in the district tournament to grab one of the District 16’s two spots in the state tournament, will take on Mechanicsville Post 175 at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday to kick off the five-day, double-elimination competition in Danville.

“We set a goal to make it to the state tournament at the beginning of the year,” Post 21 general manager Nate Eback said Monday. “We’ve made it and so now it’s time to exceed our goals.”

Winchester (22-8-1) reached the state tournament by way of a 3-2 showing in the District 16 tournament, which ended with Post 21’s 11-7 loss to top-seeded Ashburn Post 2001 on Saturday at Stone Bridge High School. Eback called the loss a back-and-forth game that saw Winchester rally from a 5-1 deficit to tie the game before surrendering six runs over Ashburn’s final three at-bats. Both teams finished with 11 hits.

“They’re a good team,” Eback said of Ashburn. “I don’t think either one of us threw our best pitching because we were both saving it because we both knew we were going to the state tournament. I mean, we split the regular season with them. We had a great 1-0 battle with them in the winner’s bracket (last Thursday). I think the championship game was more of, let’s play a game just to keep in rhythm.”

Post 21, last year’s District 16 regular season and tournament champion, earned a spot in Saturday’s district title game with wins over Remington and Leesburg last week. Winchester beat Leesburg twice in that span, including an 11-1 victory on Friday that came on the heels of Post 21’s first loss to Ashburn.

In Winchester’s five district tournament games, Alex Dobry was 7-for-15 (.467) with seven RBIs, Sherando rising junior Frank Ritter III was 9-for-21 (.429) with eight runs scored, Cohen Kerns was 6-for-14 (.429) with three RBIs and four runs scored, and Jordon Turner had four hits, four RBIs and four runs scored.

“Alex Dobry has come up big for us for the tournament. … He always seems to come through with that clutch hit,” Eback said. “Frank Ritter is pounding the ball right now. He seems to be seeing it like it’s a beach ball. We’ve had some great leadership from Jordon Turner, always excited, always on the top of his game trying to do everything he can to help the team win. I mean we’re really getting good leadership from the guys that aren’t coming back next year.

“Most of those kids have been in the program for the last four years,” Eback added, “so they’re coming to the pinnacle of their American Legion career and we want to go out as high as we can.”

Ritter enters the state tournament leading Post 21 with a .400 batting average (24-for-60) to go along with three doubles, three triples, 20 runs scored and 13 RBIs. Dobry, a Clarke County graduate and rising sophomore at U.Va.-Wise, is batting .367 (29-for-79) with 16 RBIs, while Turner sports a .347 average (25-for-72) with 20 stolen bases and 22 runs.

Eli Warren leads Winchester with 17 RBIs, while Kerns (.339) has chipped in 15 RBIs for Post 21.

On the mound, Michael Tinsman is 4-1 with a 1.07 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 50.1 innings for Post 21, while Adam Miller is 2-0 with a 1.17 ERA and Joel Smith is 3-0 with a 3.86 ERA.

Eback said Dobry, a right-hander, will likely get the start Tuesday against Mechanicsville, a team coming off its fourth District 11 tournament title in the last five years. Dobry is 5-4 with a 4.08 ERA and a team-high 43 strikeouts in 46.1 innings.

“We’re looking for our pitching, which has been good all year, to hold up between our top pitchers Michael Tinsman, Alex Dobry, Adam Miller and Joel Smith,” Eback said. “We have other pitchers in there that also can fill roles but those are our four main pitchers going down there. And we believe that with our pitching, if we can get through the first game or two, we should be able to go deep (in the tournament) because we think we’re deeper in pitching than most of the other teams.”

Front Royal Post 53 was eliminated from the District 16 tournament after going 1-2 in three games. Post 53, the sixth seed, was shut out by Leesburg, 6-0, in the opening round before being eliminated from the playoffs with a 10-8 loss to Warrenton Post 72. Front Royal’s lone win in the district tournament came via forfeit.

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or bfauber@nvdaily.com