With their season hanging in the balance, Legion Post 255 entered Sunday’s Coors Charles-St. Mary’s Baseball League playoff game at Rainbow Construction field in La Plata knowing a loss would grant Western Charles the league championship for a second consecutive season.

Entering the ninth inning, the score was knotted at 1 as both team’s starting pitchers were dueling on the mound with runs hard to come by.

In the top of the ninth, CJ Hill of Legion Post 255 recorded a leadoff double to center field and Rudy Carrico followed Hill’s at-bat with a two-run home run to right field which proved to be the difference in the contest.

“When I went to the plate, I was just ready and sitting on that pitch,” Carrico said. “Once I got it, I knew it was the one.”

Carrico was greeted by teammates as he rounded the bases and crossed home plate to the high-fives and smiles of everyone around.

In the bottom of the ninth, Legion starting pitcher Dale Arbaugh allowed a two-out walk to Brett Rothman, but got Ryan Barnett to groundout to seal the win for Legion.

“This was a close game,” Arbaugh said. “[Western Charles] put the ball in play pretty good, but we ended up coming out on top.”

The 3-1 loss was the first of the postseason for Western Charles in the double-elimination playoff format, so Legion and Western Charles will square off in a winner-take-all for the league championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at Rainbow.

“We are looking forward to playing them again next weekend for the championship,” Arbaugh said. “We will be ready for that.”

Arbaugh pitched a nine-inning complete game and surrendered just seven hits and one run to go along with five strikeouts.

“I have to say hats off to our pitcher, Dale, for holding [Western Charles] to one run,” Carrico said. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know how much we could have held them. He really came in clutch, and it was a great game.”

Legion (19-9 overall), which advanced to play Sunday after an 8-4 win over Indian Head the previous day, grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the second inning on an RBI single by Trevor Burch that scored Nate Kimmey. Burch finished with a team-high three hits in the contest.

Western Charles (18-9) was held off the scoreboard until the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Danny Lydon that scored Jason Murray to tie the game at 1.

“It was a very close game,” Western Charles head coach Tony Stefko said. “Any team can win it. We’re expecting a close game on Saturday and we’re hoping to clinch it then.”

Zach O’Dell pitched a complete game for Western Charles and recorded 11 strikeouts while surrendering 10 hits.

Tyler Summers led the Western Charles with three hits and Danny Lydon recorded two.

Carrico and Jake Wood recorded two hits for Legion behind Burch with a team-high three.

“Our ace in the hole ended up being Dale Arbaugh pitching a nine-inning complete game,” Legion head coach Tyler Kimmey said. “Our dirty dog of the day was Rudy Carrico for that two-run home run in the top of the ninth. That’s what sealed it for us and our defense was key. We were solid defensively today as well.”

During the tightly contested game, Kimmey noted the message that he kept telling his team.

“I told our guys, ‘The bats have to come alive’, and they came alive,” Kimmey said. “We are going into next weekend’s game with the same approach. We have to play good defense and get solid pitching and we will be good to go.”

Twitter: @johnniswander2

Twitter: @johnniswander2