MOLINE — For the second straight year, the Milan Legion baseball team entered Sunday at the Leo Brunner Invitational needing one win to earn its first title at the annual early July event.
Unlike last year, when Post 569 dropped both of its Sunday games to fall short of a championship, this Sunday session at Holmgren Field had a different outcome.
After dropping a 10-3 decision to East Moline in its Sunday opener, Milan rebounded against host Moline by scoring six times in the first three innings, then holding on for a 6-4, six-inning win in a title showdown shortened by darkness.
"That was the thing. We wanted to grind it out for a long as we could, and see what happened," said Post 569 coach Nick Basala, whose club enters the final week of the Legion regular season with a 20-6 record as well as the championship of the 18th annual Brunner Invite.
As the visiting team, Moline (17-7-1) came to bat to start the top of the seventh inning, with Jacob Pauwels leading off with a single to bring the tying run to the plate.
At that point, the umpires ruled that it was too dark to continue play, and Post 246 coach Jim Zacharewicz did not protest the decision, noting that suspending the game to a future date was not an option.
"There's nothing we can do about it," Zacharewicz said. "The conditions called for it. Once the game starts, it's up to the umpires. We didn't do enough early in the game, so there's no excuses. We've all got games scheduled this week, and postseason's coming up (a week from Wednesday), so there was no talk of suspending it."
Bouncing back from its loss to East Moline, Milan jumped on Post 246 starting pitcher Will McLaughlin in the first inning as A.J. Hatlestad's two-out single scored Jaden Dellitt (2-for-3).
In the bottom of the second, Milan cut loose for four more runs and a 5-0 lead, with a three-run double by Justin Bost being the key blow. Earlier in the inning, Jacob Kruse had singled in fellow Orion Charger Seth West to put Post 569 up by two.
"We didn't want to focus too much on what happened last year," Bost said. "We knew after the first game that we had to step up and play our type of baseball. Hopefully this helps boost our confidence a bit, getting some good games under our belt that we needed."
Milan tacked on another run in the third, with West (2-for-3, two runs) scoring on an error to make it 6-0. However, Moline did not go away quietly as it sought its first Brunner title since 2011.
The hosts broke through against Post 569 starter Cade Sharp in the top of the third, with an RBI by Pauwels (2-for-4) and Aiden Michna's (2-for-3) two-run double cutting that six-run deficit in half. Two innings later, Michael Conner knocked in Pauwels to make it 6-4.
"I thought Will settled in (after the opening innings) and started finding all three of his pitches in the strike zone," Zacharewicz said. "He gave us the opportunity to get back in the game."
However, Milan -- which used two Saturday wins to set up Sunday's title bid -- would not be denied, with Kyle Yeater holding down the fort to save the win for Sharp and for Post 569.
"We knew after the first game that we really had to bounce back, start off hot with the bats and jump on them early," Yeater said. "Out on the mound, I had to find the zone. It helped having a lead, and props to Cade on that."
East Moline finishes strong: After dropping its first two Brunner games, East Moline's Post 227 squad (9-8) rallied to finish with three straight wins, two coming on Sunday.
Prior to its victory over Milan, a win highlighted by two-RBI efforts from Tyler Runkle (3-for-4) and Daniel Ruiz (2-for-4), East Moline topped Macomb 13-5, scoring all but two of its runs in the first three innings of a six-inning game. Runkle had two hits and three RBIs, and Reid Murphy added two RBIs.
"I'm real proud of the guys, coming out with a tough start to our first two games to come out on top in the next three and play pretty well," Post 227 coach Mike Meyers said. "This is what you want to do late in the year, get the momentum going your way."