Each year, the Festus Post 253 American Legion baseball team’s home game against rival Ste. Genevieve Post 150 commemorates Andy Habsieger, who was killed in action while serving with the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division in Iraq on March 23, 2008. Habsieger graduated from Festus High in 2004. A $1,000 scholarship in his name is awarded annually to a player from each team before the game. Charlie Pratt of Post 253 and Bryce Palmer of Ste. Genevieve Post 150 were selected for this year’s scholarships.
And it was only fitting that the play on the field matched the solemn occasion as Chad Donze of Ste. Gen and Festus ace Michael Brewer locked into a pitcher’s duel that ended with Post 253 winning 1-0 in a matchup of the two perennial powers in District 13.
Brewer, a 2019 Hillsboro graduate and the Jefferson County Activities Association player of the year during the prep baseball season, pitched six solid innings in his first start of the summer for Post 253. He struck out seven and allowed only one hit. Jordan Duncan relieved Brewer in the seventh inning and retired Post 150 in order for the save.
“(Brewer’s) fastball command was excellent,” Festus head coach Zac Bone said. “His velocity was good and he had a really good feel with the breaking ball. His stuff is unquestionable. He did a good job holding down their running game.
“Everyone knows Mike’s one of the premier arms in the Midwest, but people who follow baseball in the area know what kind of baseball player Jordan is (too).”
Donze was almost as effective as Brewer, shutting down the potent 253 bats after allowing an early run. Gavin Turley grounded to shortstop Tyler Blum to lead off the Festus first, and Blum’s wild throw allowed Turley to scoot to second base. Duncan, the next batter, singled to score Turley for a 1-0 lead. Ste. Gen catcher Kyle Roth threw out Duncan trying to steal second. Brewer walked, but Donze recorded two groundouts to escape the inning.
Festus catcher Isack Hamilton couldn’t squeeze the third strike on Chase Koller’s at-bat in the Post 150 second, and Koller promptly went to second base on a wild pitch by Brewer. But Brewer struck out the next batter and Post 253 third baseman Charlie Pratt made an incredible diving stop on Kellen Blum’s sharp grounder to his left, bouncing up for the putout to end the inning.
“Charlie is a kid who you will get a tremendous effort from in every game,” Bone said of Pratt, a first-team pitcher on the all-JCAA team this spring. “He’s about as competitive as anyone I’ve been around. He had a big summer for us last year and was great again (Sunday) night.”
Donze retired Festus in order in the second and third innings, while Brewer allowed only one Ste. Gen. base runner in the third and fourth innings. With Roth on first base with one out in the fourth, Logan Gegg lined a rocket to the outfield that left fielder Turley tracked down on the dead run. Brewer then struck out Koller on three pitches to end the fourth.
It was the second dramatic defensive play by Post 253 to save a potential run.
“What is impressive to me is what Gavin brings defensively,” Bone said. “He (already) has two assists this season. He’s only played the infield the last few years. He doesn’t have a ton of experience in the outfield, but he got a great jump on that (fly) ball.”
Neither team got any runners into scoring position in the final three innings. Post 253’s Jacob Bridges sent a drive to the warning track in left field in the fifth. Duncan singled in the sixth but was retired in a rundown with Brewer at the plate.
Donze pitched six innings, scattering three hits and striking out two.
Festus improved to 3-0. It was the first loss of the season for Ste. Gen (5-1), which had come from behind to edge De Soto SMCI 7-6 three days earlier.
“They’re really good, no doubt,” Bone said of Post 150. “Chad was really good for them on the mound.”
Bone has had to manage around rainouts against Charleston, Potosi, Farmington and De Soto, with all those games rescheduled. Post 253 next hosts the Ron Bone Tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday.
Festus beat the Jefferson County Blazers 11-1 on Tuesday at West City Park. Zac Bone said it’s the first time Post 253 has played any team from the St. Louis Amateur Baseball Association, let alone the county’s sole representative in that league.
“What a great opportunity to get together with one of the premier summer programs,” Bone said.