By Will Willems Sports Editor
---- — Lebanon — After an extremely successful regular season, the Lebanon Merchants went into the Midwest Prospects Baseball League Tournament with high hopes of repeating as league champions.
Those dreams came crashing down in a matter of hours Saturday afternoon.
After losing in the winners’ bracket championship to the Midwest Tomahawks 8-6, the Merchants lost in the consolation final to the Franklin Cougars 6-1.
“We thought we had our pitching set-up but sometimes guys just don’t have it,” Lebanon manager Ron Ebert said. “We got really behind the eight ball in that first game, getting down 7-0. We had a chance in that game, we got the bases loaded and the tying run on second, but we didn’t get it done. And I think that carried over into the second game. We were kind of lifeless out there. We only got four hits and that is not going to get it done anytime.”
Midwest jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first two innings against Lebanon starter Eric Watt in the first game Saturday.
The Merchants clawed their way back later in the game, trailing just 8-4 heading to the final inning.
Lebanon loaded the bases with no one out, and scored two runs thanks to two more walks to get within 8-6.
But a pop out ended the game with the tying run on second and the winning run on first.
Things didn’t start much better in the second game.
The first nine Merchants were retired in order.
“We thought we would hit a lot better in the second game,” Ebert said. “We had a lot of good swings in that first game, especially late. But it was the opposite.”
Franklin took a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning with a two-run homer.
The Merchants came right back in the bottom half of the inning.
Nick Barrientos bunted his way on for the Merchants’ first hit of the game.
Three batters later, Tyler Hampton walked to keep the inning alive for Derek White, who singled home Barrientos to cut the lead to 2-1.
The Merchants had a chance to tie the game in the fifth, when Michael Spolyar walked and two batters later Andrew Eiler singled to put runners on the corners, but a fly out and a strike out ended the inning.
The Cougars scored two in the sixth and two in the seventh to pull away.
Lebanon finished the year 16-9 and should return a strong team next season.
“I will take away a lot of good memories from this season,” Ebert said. “It is just too bad it had to end this way. Next year, I think most of these guys will be back and if we can duplicate what we did this year, I will be more than happy.”