Belmont Bandits 9U baseball team
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Jun. 4, 2017
Championship Sunday was an eventful and tension-filled day from start to finish. The day started with so much promise. A late night for both teams became a deja vu reality when we squared off with the Lake Norman Dingers at 10:30am. #1 seed in the Gold Championship is both a blessing and a curse; it's great to be holding serve, but all that doesn't really matter when you have to face tough, quality opponents ready to give you their best shot. Game one was versus the Dingers again, to see who would get a berth in the championship game.
We had some early problems on defense in this game. We ran through two pitchers and scattered in some errors amongst the many hits on us. The Dingers put up a quick SIX runs in the top half of the first inning, and also scored two early runs in the top of the second inning. Enter Blake Hartness in the second inning. He has given our team a calming presence from the mound all season thus far, and he came in to pitch four solid innings to make sure we got to the championship game. Blake came in and stopped that second inning rally for the opponent, and went on to get quick outs over the next three innings. He faced only ten batters while getting nine outs during that three inning stretch.
Offensively we had a few guys knock it around a good bit. Early in the game, we answered the Dingers 6 run inning, with a 6 run inning of our own in the bottom of the first. The coaches were proud of the boys for continually fighting back and clawing out some runs, especially after being jumped on and put in the hole early in this game. A few of our hitters were hot the whole weekend long, and we needed every hit because our opponent came to play. Landon King was 3-3 (two 1Bs, 2B....and the double was a Ground-Ruled Double; it ALMOST went out, but missed by about 4-5 feet), Brody Crawford went 3-4 (1B, two 2Bs), Zeke Pruitt had 3-4 (two 1Bs, 3B), Walker Spargo was 2-2 (two 1Bs, BB) and Ayden Bradley was 2-3 (two 1Bs and also reached base via error). Bug Green, Patrick Blee and Christopher Wurster all had big doubles during this game. Wurster was particularly impressive at the plate all weekend, and hit the ball as hard as anyone we have on the team. He has shown huge improvement in his consistency at the dish, and has come up big for us recently. We ended up with a 16-8 victory in this game which propelled us to the Gold Championship game. The Dingers are always a good team, but they had their typical solid game versus our team and pressed us constantly throughout the contest. We didn't feel secure until the last run was recorded and they allowed us to move onto the next game by run rule. Kudos to the Dingers; they're a fine team full of competitors.
Our championship game wound up being against the GBG Copperheads. We saw them earlier in the year, and played well enough to record a big win with plenty of cushion. Life wouldn't be so easy this time. They look like they've added a guy or two, and they are definitely a better team this time around than what we saw last meeting. Again, congrats to a great group of players, coaches and fans. They pulled, played and coached hard for their boys, as it should be.
We struggled a little here and there in this game, and ended up in a tight game with a game opponent. The game was closer than 8-5, which is the final outcome in the game - but the normal drama and excitement we seem to always have was omni-present and unfortunately took years off our coaching staff's lives.
Our offensive game was offensive at times (not in a good way), and superb in spots. We utilized the bunt very well in this game, with Dalton Skipper getting two bunts down perfectly on the day. In this game, he almost beat out a bunt in the bottom of the third which would have sparked some momentum. He was narrowly thrown out, but when the fourth inning came around, we saw another opportunity to roll those dice again and seized it. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the fourth, Patrick Blee walked, advanced to second and then Bug Green singled him home which tied up the score 4 all. Zeke Pruitt was the last batted out the previous inning, and pitch ran for Green. After two quick outs, we found ourselves with Pruitt at third base and Walker Spargo up to bat. Two outs with a runner on third is not an ideal situation to squeeze in. You can hope for passed ball/wild pitches, but these guys were not throwing many because they have pitchers with good control and really good catchers. But the theme to a famous Kenny Rogers song kept buzzing in our heads, and so we were about to put his "hold em or fold em" concept to the test. Pruitt, a very savvy base runner, and Spargo the ultimate team player were given their cues to execute a contact squeeze play. Spargo squared as late as he could, and he layed down a picture perfect bunt down the third base line. The ball could smell the chalk, but recoiled at the stink of it and decided to stay fair by a solid half a foot. Pruitt raced down the line as soon as he saw the baseball down on the ground and was securely safe at home as Spargo easily beat out a no-throw to first base. So, the Bandits gambled big time with two outs by throwing it all on the line to seize momentum and opportunity with the squeeze attempt. It worked, and this was one of the bigger plays of the game. Two guys listening, sacrificing, executing. We've been doing it around here a long damn time, and these guys are learning how to do it well at a very young age.
The last inning of offense for the Bandits was the bottom of the fifth inning. In the top half, the Copperheads had scored another run, tying it yet again at 5-5. Luke Lassiter started our rally off with a single. Dalton Skipper muscled a double. Brody Crawford stayed red hot with the bat by hitting a single and driving in one run. The third base coach (who will remain nameless)gambled yet again in order to try and steal a run, but had a player thrown out at the plate. The Copperheads can throw and catch, and their cut, throw and tag were all accurate so they denied us an insurance run. Pruitt hit a ball in play that was mishandled, and The White Flash motored in to score from first base and gave us a much needed run. Pruitt later came into score on heady baserunning via passed ball/wild pitches so we had an 8-5 lead going into the last inning of play.
Hartness came into pitch during the middle part of this game, and provided steady relief to right our ship when it was needed. He ran out of innings, and we gave the ball to Pruitt. He was able to dodge some early pitfalls, and was key when it counted from the mound. In this last inning, he mowed down two batters with strikeouts, but another one of those plays of the game came when with two outs a runner attempted to get in scoring position from first base for the Copperheads went for a steal. Bug Green, our resident comedian-player, unleashed his arm fury on the field and gunned down the would-be base thief to record the third and decisive out in the game. Great catch and tag by Blee, and we were looking for our pot of gold. Bandits win! Bandits win! Bandits win!!!! Heeyyyyyy!!!! So, 8-5 was the final, and we were happy to be done with baseball at this point in the day.
Great weekend for our boys. I'm proud of our parents for dealing with some of the bitter people who are bent on trying to rain on our parade. The local smear campaigns are laughable, and those who aren't on our radar should be kept there. We may play like Darth Vader on the field, but at least we don't act like it in our personal life off the field. Keep on cheering for your boys - you ain't doing nothing wrong. We will keep on playing hard, just like bulls on parade. Come with it now......
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