St. Clairsville stuns Cambridge for Region 8 title
Post 159 headed to state tournament Tuesday in Lancaster
CAMBRIDGE — What seemed highly improbable early last week became reality Saturday afternoon.
Held to just one hit through six innings, St. Clairsville Post 159 bunched together three safeties in the bottom of the seventh inning to stun Cambridge Post 84, 3-2, in the championship game of the American Legion Region 8 Tournament on sun-soaked Don Coss Field. The come-from-behind victory was the fifth straight for St. Clairsville in a win-or-go-home scenario after losing its tournament opener to defending state champion Beverly-Lowell Post 389/750, which Post 159 then eliminated on Thursday night.
“We pieced this together. One-hundred-percent we pieced this together,” Post 159 manager Mike Muklewicz said. “We have three tremendous leaders that couldn’t play this week because they are playing in the (OVAC) all-star football game tonight (Saturday) which is a prestigious honor and one they deserve, but we have four freshmen who have really come together and peaked just in time.
“You couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. I’m glad for the program and the kids to get back to Lancaster,” Muklewicz added. “That is the goal every summer and we achieved that this season.”
The three players Muklewicz was referring to are pitchers Tyler Tonkovich, Will Balgo and Kobe Hill. They will, however, be available for the double-elimination state tournament which begins Tuesday at Beavers Field in Lancaster.
Post 159 hasn’t appeared in the state tournament since 2016.
Trailing 2-1 entering its last at-bat, winning pitcher Drew Sefsick singled to right leading off. Colin Snedeker bunted him to second from where he scored on a double to right-center by Dakota Hess. Hess would then come around on Harrison Kazmirski’s single over the rightfielder’s head as the St. Clairsville dugout exploded in celebration.
“Coach Muk called time and I walked down (to the third base coaches box),” Kazmirski said of their talk prior to the at-bat. “He just told me to sit on the fastball. I got one down the middle and I thought, ‘man I’m down in the count (0-1) but I still have to work here.’ Another fastball came and I drove it to the right side.”
Kazmirski said he was just trying to help his team win.
“I came onto the team late but I just wanted to help them in any way that I could,” he explained. “I’m just glad I could contribute and we’re going to the state tournament.”
The hit was only Kazmirski’s third of the summer.
“A very, very unlikely hero. We kept Harrison on the roster when we knew we were going to lose three guys to football, and he came up huge in the biggest game of the season. Huge, huge kudos to him.
“There were so many plays made this week by different guys. I can’t just single out one or two or three. It was truly an entire team effort all week, especially today,” Muklewicz stressed.
“We clutched it up there when we had to,” Sefsick said. “That’s all that matters. We love Harrison. We really do. As long as you’re on our team, we love you.”
Cambridge took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first only to see St. Clairsville draw even in the bottom of the inning when Jaren Starks raced home on a Chase Goff groundout.
Post 84 went back ahead in the second frame on a two-out double by Angelo Rocco, but Sefsick would retire 13 straight until Bryce Murdock doubled leading off the seventh. However, a strikeout, line drive to Snedeker at first and a sinking liner to Starks in center ended the threat.
Sefsick finished with eight punchouts and two walks. He gave up three hits and threw 102 pitches.
“Drew Sefsick was clutch today on the mound. He just kept getting outs,” Muklewicz noted.