Heading into the final four games of the regular season at a 16-3 clip, Falls Church Post 130 needed just one victory to lock up a first-place finish in the Northern Virginia 17th District of American Legion Baseball. Instead, they lost all four.
Despite the slide, Falls Church earned a chance to redeem itself in two contests in the double-elimination tournament after earning a bye through the first round and moving one step closer to a berth in the state tournament in Glen Allen, Va. Again, they lost both games.
Two weeks after sitting in first place, Post 130 is now at home for the rest of the summer as Arlington Post 139, the eventual tournament champions and a team Falls Church beat three times during the regular season, plays on in Glen Allen. And it’s all thanks to a six-game slide uncharacteristic of Post 130’s otherwise stellar season.
Falls Church was eliminated from the district tournament on July 21 against Springfield Post 176, the team that once one-hit Post 130 and dealt Falls Church its first loss of the year.
Post 130 went up 4-0 in the contest behind starter Greg Goldsmith, who struck out eight batters in 6.2 innings of work, but was unable to withstand Springfield’s furious rally, which brought Post 176 back to within one run in the top of the ninth.
With a runner on second and two outs, Jeff Haeuptle ripped a 3-1 pitch off Falls Church southpaw Justin Britt over the left-centerfield fence, setting off a raucous celebration in the 176 bench. Springfield pitcher Mike Olerta ran into control problems in the bottom of the ninth, but with a runners on first and second got Post 130’s Mike Straub (Lynchburg College) to chase a low breaking ball, preserving the 5-4 win.
Straub and Lonnie Millard, both 2008 graduates of George Mason High, each had a pair of hits in the game.
Springfield’s elimination of Falls Church capped off a tumultuous week for the squad. The ball got rolling on July 14 when Alexandria Post 24 scored an extra-inning win and then dealt Falls Church an embarrassing 17-0 loss in the nightcap of a doubleheader. Post 130 then lost the next night to Chantilly Post 1995 19-10 and again the following evening to Vienna Post 180 13-10.
The Post 130 defense, which had carried the team earlier in the year, ceded 67 runs in its final five games, partially due to a brutal stretch in which Falls Church played seven contests in six days.
Thanks to Falls Church’s hot start, in which they remained in first place throughout the entire season and did not lose until June 27, Post 130 still gained a first-round bye in the tournament despite ceding the regular season championship to Arlington.
Given a chance to redeem itself, Falls Church continued its slide in the tournament in the absence of top hitter Kevin Nutter, losing again to Vienna 13-6 at Lake Braddock High School on July 20 and setting up the loss to Springfield.