The Hannibal Legion Post 55 A baseball team is one of eight squads competing in the state tournament this week at Ronsick Field.

The Hannibal Legion Post 55 A baseball team excelled as an underdog during the Missouri District 9 Tournament.

Hannibal came out of the loaded bracket unscathed.

Post 55 reaps the reward of its district title as one of eight teams competing in the state tournament this week at Ronsick Field in Washington. The squad enters state the winner of seven consecutive games.

“We're coming out hot,” said Caleb Young, who pitched a complete game in the district championship and owns eight postseason hits. “We won four games straight at districts against really competitive teams and played the best baseball we have in a long time.”

Hannibal is scheduled to open the double-elimination state bracket Wednesday afternoon against St. Genevieve. 

Regardless of result, Post 55 is slated to play again Thursday.

“There will be a lot of emotion down there,” said Hannibal ace Garrett Lillard. “We're going to have to work hard to get where we want in the state tournament. It's going to take a lot of commitment.”

Hannibal owns a team batting average of .351 and has scored 168 runs in 25 games — an average of 6.72 per contest.

Post 55 erupted for 38 runs over four games during the district tournament, which featured a 12-11 comeback win over Sullivan, a 4-2 victory over Washington and a sweep of top-seeded Union.

Post 55 squared up for 14 hits and scored 13 unanswered runs to beat Union 13-3 in the district title game.

“Our pitchers have been throwing strikes and cutting them down, and our hitting has been on fire,” said Mason Tharp, who is hitting .500 on the season. “We've just got to keep playing the way we are and keep grinding.” 

Lillard has proven to be the ace of the Hannibal pitching staff.

The hurler has recorded five wins and a microscopic earned run average of 0.85. He has struck out 40 while only allowing four earned runs over 33 innings.

“I take the most pride in getting ground balls for my teammates and letting them work and us being a team,” Lillard said of the success this season. “It's not just me out there. Our team is helping me by getting runs so I can stay comfortable and focused on the mound.”

Drake Dudley (.479), Young (.457) and Gary Culp (.436) round out the top batting averages in the Hannibal lineup. 

Charlie Culp IV paces the Post 55 offense with 22 RBIs.

Hannibal started the season 8-0 but spiraled to lose six of its next eight. Post 55 weathered the storm and hasn't lost since June 12. 

“We have what we need to win,” Tharp said. “We went through a slump, but the important thing is we got out of that. Now we're hot again and going to state.

“This feels pretty good, and it'll feel even better when we win it.”