When Independence Post 21 starting pitcher Brandon Borchert handed the ball over to closer Myles Odom to finish off Bennington (Neb.) Post 266 Thursday, Borchert had a question for him.
“Borchert asked if I had it in me to finish it,” Odom said. “I said, ‘Hell yeah, I do.’ ”
And so, Odom took over in the top of the seventh inning, with Post 21 leading 2-1, one out and a runner on third. The 2016 Truman High School graduate responded by serving up a groundout, a walk and then a foul-out to help Post 21 finish off the 2-1 American Legion Wood Bat Invitational victory at Blue Springs High School.
“I (could) look in his eyes and tell that he was ready to go in there and compete for it,” Borchert said.
Borchert spread six hits, struck out three, walked one and plunked a batter through 6 1/3 innings for the win. The recent Van Horn graduate and soon-to-be North Central Missouri College freshman also helped himself by scoring on a wild pitch for the first run in the second inning.
Kyle Schnakenberg scored on an error in the third to make it 2-0 Post 21.
Grant Carl spoiled Borchert’s bid for a shutout by scoring from second on a stolen-base-and-throwing error combination with two outs in the sixth.
Todd Cerny was hit by a pitch to start Bennington’s seventh-inning threat. His pinch runner, Colin Bencker, moved to second on a wild pitch and then to third on Seth Krayneski’s sacrifice bunt.
Then came a Post 21 meeting on the mound, where manager Tom Bush talked with Borchert. Bush said he let Borchert decide whether or not Borchert wanted to finish it.
“When he hit the batter, then that set a new tone,” Bush said. “And I thought, ‘Well, let’s see what he wants to do, how he feels,’ because I (knew) the heat (had) to be exhausting.”
Borchert, in turn, posed his question to Odom. Odom replied and moved from shortstop to pitch. Borchert went to play third base. The first batter Odom faced hit a grounder to Borchert, who looked off Bencker and threw to first for the out.
“I knew after that that Myles was going to get that last out and get us out of there,” Borchert said.
But before Odom did so, he walked Jordan Phipps. Then, with runners on first and third, Odom got Carl to hit a towering foul ball. Catcher and soon-to-be Truman senior Nick Wheeler got under it and caught it to end it.
“I knew I had to turn my back (toward) the infield like we knew (to do) when we were 12 years old and watch it come back to me,” Wheeler said. “Just caught it. It really wasn’t too tricky, but it was the heat of the moment – that kind of made it tougher.”
Bennington manager Jamie Schleifer complimented Post 21 for holding on for the win.
“They just made some more plays and the pitcher came in and did a good job,” Schleifer said.
Post 21 improved to 1-1 in pool play while Bennington dropped to 1-1. Washington Post 218 leads Pool C with a 2-0 mark entering today’s final pool games. The five pool winners and three wild cards advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals.