The Bone family has a deep history with Festus Post 253 American Legion baseball.
For nearly 50 years, a Bone has been at the helm of the Post 253 program, which is located just south of St. Louis, Mo.
So it’s understandable why current head coach Zac Bone had a tough time putting into words what Sunday’s Mid-South Regional tournament championship meant to him and his family.
His Festus Post 253 team cruised through the regional, winning its first three games to secure a spot in the finals. A hiccup against the host Hastings Five Points Bank did no lasting harm.
Festus, which edged the Bryant (Ark.) Post 298 Black Sox by a run Thursday evening, won the rematch Sunday 8-3 to capture the tournament crown and earn a trip to Shelby, N.C, the site of the Legion World Series.
After the final out was recorded, Bone celebrated with his team on the Duncan Field turf. But there was one person in particular he needed to share the moment with: his father, Pat.
Pat Bone coached Festus for 21 seasons, winning five Missouri state titles in that span.
“In a state with over 100 teams, that’s a very difficult thing to do. He had it rolling for a long time,” Zac said of his dad. “This program has been around for a long time, but it really got serious on the state and national levels during his time.”
Before Pat, Zac’s grandfather Ron Bone led Festus for 20 seasons. Zac took over the program for his dad in 2012, after being an assistant since in 2005.
But, shortly after Zac became head coach, he nearly lost his father.
A “100 percent” blockage of Pat’s left anterior artery almost took his life.
“The doctors said ‘Dude, you’re really lucky to be alive,’ “ Zac said.
Pat was lively and well as he cheered from the stands while he watched Zac coach his team to a regional title. It’s the second national berth earned by Festus under Zac’s leadership.
Before the trophy presentation, Zac spotted Pat and wrapped his arms tightly around his father. Happy tears flowed down the faces of the father and son.
Zac’s emotions of not only winning the regional, but sharing the moment with his dad, were evident in the postgame interview.
But after a few deep breaths, Zac cleared his throat and began an excited rant.
“I’ve never been more excited to go to North Carolina in my entire life, man,” the coach said with a smile.
Bryant, which eliminated the host Hastings Five Points Bank earlier in the day 3-2, quickly gained a two-run advantage after half an inning in the championship.
Cade Drennan reached on a fielder’s choice, and Jake Wright chased him home with a triple. Gage Stark then plated Wright with an infield single.
“I probably called a really bad pitch there to Wright,” Bone said. “He hammered a fastball to the gap.”
Festus starter Jeremy Isenman, who earned the win in Post 253’s opener, dealt with a few other jams in his seven innings Sunday, but settled in after the shaky first.
“I think (what helped was) trying to focus on what I can control, and trying to fill the strike zone with strikes,” Isenman said. “I was trying to get everything working, all my off speed pitches, and just really relying on my defense. They were making amazing plays today.”
Isenman’s life was made a lot easier in the fifth when his offense exploded for six runs on five hits.
Festus batted around in the inning and chased Bryant starter Slade Renfrow. Post 253 continued the rally off of the Black Sox’ trusted reliever throughout the tournament, lefty Tyler Bates.
Renfrow was charged with the losing decision after allowing three runs on five hits in four-plus innings of work. Festus got to Bates for five runs on five hits in his three innings. Bates struck out seven.
Jordan Duncan, who was named the Mid-South Regional’s most valuable player, began the long rally with an RBI single to score Jacob Bridges. Later in the inning, Isack Hamilton stroked a ball to left that skipped away from the Bryant outfielder and led to three runs. Pinch-hitter Brendan Smock also tallied an RBI with a single to center.
“Once my offense kicked in and gave me six runs, I could relax and enjoy myself,” Isenman said.
“Huge hit by Jordan Duncan. Bigger hit, probably, by Isack Hamilton, who has been huge all week,” Bone said. “Just huge hit after huge hit...We got up 7-2 and Jeremy (Isenman) said ‘I got ‘em, I got it.’ “
Bone couldn’t say enough about his ace.
“He’s just a smart, savvy kid, man. I think he knew if he settled in, we were going to have a chance,” the coach said. “We also did some really big things defensively.”
One of the biggest assists from the Festus defense came in a difficult spot. Bryant loaded the bases with one out in its half of the fifth, trying to answer the bell.
A fly ball to left turned into a double play after Colby Ott hosed Stark at the plate to put out the flame.
“I don’t know if you believe in momentum, but I thought that was one of the bigger plays in the game. It was obviously a big swing for us,” Bone said.
After its dogfight with Five Points Bank in game one, Bryant began to tire.
The three-time defending Arkansas state champ came up short in the regional championship for the second straight season.
“It’s been a really good run for our older kids,” Bryant head coach Darren Hurt said. “Obviously we didn’t play our best game here in the late game. I don’t know if we spent so much energy beating Hastings that we just didn’t have anything left in the tank or what the case was. We fought hard.”
Manufacturing runs was an issue all week for Bryant. Every Black Sox game in the Mid-South Regional was decided by one run, except the finale.
Bryant racked up 14 hits in the title game, but scratched just three runs out of it, leaving 11 men on base.
“Bryant, to me, is the epitome of what American Legion baseball should be. Darren Hurt is one of the smartest baseball guys I’ve ever been around, and their program is phenomenal year in, year out,” Bone said.
Instead of traveling home, Festus will fly into Charlotte, N.C., from Grand Island later this week before the World Series begins Aug. 15.
“I think we can win it, I really do” Bone said. “I know there are going to be a lot of really good baseball teams there because you don’t survive to this point without being really good...Our kids are really excited to go, but we won’t be satisfied just to be there.”
Festus..........001 060 1 — 8 10 1
Bryant..........200 010 0 — 3 14 2
W — Jeremy Isenman. L — Slade Renfrow.
3B — B, Wright.