It's possible that West End Post 361 came into their two-game American Legion District 11 Tournament Finals with top-seeded Mechanicsville Post 175 not only knowing they had to win twice to capture the tournament title, but desiring to stay away from yet another situation where they would have to live up to their late-season mantra: "The Comeback Kids".
They'd much rather be called the "361 mafia", thank you. That mafia used every aspect of the sport, from pitching and defense to slow rollers and long bombs to jump on Mechanicsville Post 175 for nine runs in the first two innings en route to a 13-5 win to capture the District 11 crown.
"It's different to be on this side of the ball, but it's nice," said catcher Will Black. "When you have the lead, you can attack their hitters a little better."
That's just what Patrick Hulihan did. The lefty worked seven innings, getting out of several tricky situations, only serving up one mistake that turned into a grand slam home run for Post 175, which cut the by-then 12-0 lead in the fifth to 12-4. Otherwise, Hulihan did what Patrick Hall did Tuesday and Nic Phelps accomplished Monday, with strong outings on the hill that went deep into the game so 361 did not have to worry about their lack of pitching depth.
"Unbelievable work; they both located their three pitches: the fast, the curve, and the change, both kept them off-balance," Black explained. "They're a real aggressive team, so you need good off-speed pitches for first strikes to get ahead. Unbelievable job."
Black described the starting rotation of Hulihan, Hall, Phelps, and Tyler Magee as having the mentality to know each time they are given the ball, they need to produce seven plus innings of solid work. In the past 48 plus hours, Phelps and Hall pitched eight apiece, tonight Hulihan went seven.
Hall hit his second home run in as many games, a grand slam down the right field line, the biggest shot in a seven-run second inning that took a 2-0 game and turned it into a developing 9-0 rout. But 175 wasn't nearly done.
After the Trevor Denton grand slam in the fifth, 175 loaded the bases twice more. Josh Lam, who struck out with the bases jammed before the Denton home run, had three opportunities at the plate with three runners aboard. He produced two strikeouts and a sacrifice fly for Mechanicsville's final run. After a final 361 run was scored in the ninth, 175 went quietly in the final three outs. Mechanicsville left 13 runners on base.
West End improves to 14-6 and advances to the State American Legion Tournament that begins Monday in Purcellville, Virginia. Brackets and directions will be posted here on our website as soon as they are available to us.