Perhaps Danville Post 210 was destined for a wild final day in the Illinois Senior Legion state tournament.
The Speakers faced Barrington Post 158 on July 30 with a championship on the line. The host squad already had given Post 210 a scare during a 14-12 Speakers semifinal win Monday.
But Post 210 coach Allan Shepherd needing two catchers to pitch the final five outs of a winner-take-all tilt? That’s an entirely different level of wild.
“I would’ve said that we were in some really, really tough games (if presented that situation), and that would’ve held true,” Shepherd said. “But I had faith in both of them.”
Trevor Davis and Chase Rademacher proved Shepherd’s belief well-founded.
Davis, a Danville rising senior and Rademacher, a Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin graduate, moved from behind the plate to help the Speakers past Barrington 6-4 in eight innings, giving Post 210 a Great Lakes Regional berth for the third time in four years.
The triumph followed a seesaw, 11-8 loss to Barrington on Tuesday morning, forcing the decisive afternoon game in the double-elimination tournament.
“It was a very long day,” said Shepherd, who last guided the Speakers to an outright state crown in 2016. “The second game was a very good game. I really didn’t want to play it.”
Post 210 (31-7-1) jumped out to an early edge in the finale, scoring two first-inning runs on a single from Danville alumnus Logan Spicer.
With Oakwood graduate Chase Vinson on the bump, it wasn’t far-fetched to think a 2-0 lead would be enough.
Another odd occurrence, however, placed a blockade in the Speakers’ road to a state title.
Vinson was cruising along until Thomas Fitzpatrick struck out leading off the Barrington third inning.
According to Shepherd, a dropped third strike bounced off Fitzpatrick’s foot and rolled through an open gate, allowing Fitzpatrick to reach safely.
Barrington went on to score twice in the frame, then added a fifth-inning run for a 3-2 lead.
“Once it hit his foot, the play should’ve been dead,” Shepherd said. “But we overcome. I didn’t really focus on it too much.”
Both Rademacher and Vinson doubled home a run in the sixth to put Post 210 back on top, 4-3.
That set the stage for Barrington to chase Vinson off the mound in the seventh, tying the game at 4 on a Davis wild pitch with two outs.
Even so, Davis stranded a runner on third to cap that inning, and Rademacher did the same — with the bases loaded — in the bottom of the eighth.
Those crucial tosses sandwiched a run-scoring hit by pitch from Danville alum Jake Stipp that gave Post 210 a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth and an RBI single by Davis that increased Post 210’s lead to 6-4.
“It speaks to what the team is,” Shepherd said. “Everybody steps up. They do what we ask of them, or at least they try. Outside of Chase (Rademacher) getting those last two outs, he was also the tournament MVP.”
The Speakers take their high spirits into the Great Lakes Regional, which opens Aug. 7 at Coaches Stadium on the campus of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston.
Beyond host Charleston Post 93, no involved program will have a shorter trip than Post 210.
The Speakers begin their regional run against the Pennsylvania state champion, which will be decided Wednesday. Other qualifiers hail from Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
“Every other year we’ve gone to regionals, it’s so far away,” Shepherd said. “During the week, we don’t get a lot of people. But I’m looking forward to having a big crowd for us.”
Ultimately, securing the Speakers their first-ever American Legion World Series bid will take more than raucous rooting across the five-day regional.
Does Post 210 possess the talent, depth and moxie to pull it off?
“Yes,” Shepherd said firmly. “We have the pitching, and we’re hitting and seeing the ball well. ... We’re not there to participate. We’re there to try and win it.”