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The Wild Side; Final day of play, Game 2
Jul. 24, 2017
The heat, the drama, the expectations, the hopefulness....the heat. Win or go home was the credo for the day, so we set out to keep on winning. This was the final day of the 'Summer National Championship' as presented by Top Gun. They got the best teams in the state of NC and the upstate of SC to show up in a venue very close to Charlotte, and battle it out for supremacy of 9u baseball. We practice to get better at baseball, and then we like to go test ourselves. These guys play a sport called baseball. To make light of it, or pretend it means nothing just means you weren't good enough to be there. Congrats to all the teams good enough to be there, and most importantly for bringing a great challenge in each and every game played amongst each other.
Next up for us was what many consider to be the top team in the state: The Roberson Ramblers. They are very talented, have a great HS coach doing all the right things for and with the players, and were 4-0 coming into this game for a reason. I considered them to be the team to beat in this tournament, and sure enough our paths met again. Earlier in the year we played the most efficient 9u baseball game I've ever seen two teams perform. It was a defensive heavyweight fight in regular innings, and became an extra innings marathon in which we were fortunate to come out on top. They beat another top team in the tournament, Park Sharon, already and our courses were set to intersect sometime this weekend. They did around 9:40am on Sunday. After about an hour's wait, we finally got to see the first pitch thrown out and were underway.
In the first meeting, Blake Hartness pitched a gem of a game, and Landon King came in to close it out for us. In this tournament, over the course of three days, your pitching gets thin. Unfortunate for us, we got to see Roberson's number 1 and 2 pitchers in this game, as they used other guy to beat everyone else on day two of play. We gave Zeke Pruitt the ball, and he threw three complete innings and got into the fourth. He battled as good as he has all year long, and made the staff proud leading the team from the mound. Roberson scored some runs on him, but he had five strikeouts and made big pitch, after big pitch when we needed it. In the fourth he was relieve by Blake Hartness, and he pitched the rest of the fourth and all of the fifth. During his innings, he continued that unscored upon streak he had all weekend. Blake was a big reason we got a couple of our wins this weekend, and we could not have played as well as we did this year without him.
This game's tone was set with the first at bat, as the visitor team in this game, by our leadoff man - Brody. He got down 0-2 really quickly versus their flame throwing pitcher. Roberson's pitcher talent was very evident from watching them, but further evidenced by the fact that this guy threw about 10 straight pitches that were in the strike zone during this at bat. After being down 0-2 on two pitches, Crawford fouled off seven MORE pitches to stay alive. On pitch #10, he lined an opposite field single to left field and we secured the game's momentum with ten (not one) swings of the bat. He would come around to score in the first inning, but that run was not as important as the fight he showed at the plate against the top team to beat in this tournament. We pieced together three more runs over the next three innings to stay in the game. In the top of the fifth inning, we were down 7-4. We scratched out three runs in the fifth to tie the game 7-7. After Blake held Roberson to zero runs in the bottom of the fifth, we had our last at bat in this game, and possibly the season at stake.
So with 7 runs on the board for Roberson as the home team (with last at bat), we came into the top of the 6th and final inning tied. Walker Spargo started the inning off by reaching base via an unusual Roberson error. His hustle helped make him safe, and that was good as one of our best baserunners was on base with no outs. After a strikeout and then a walk, we had one out and Spargo on third. Crawford sac flies Spargo in to take an 8-7 lead, and we go into the home team's last at bat of the game hoping that these mountain boys are starting to feel the heat of the piedmont bearing down on them.
Roberson had to face a new pitcher in the sixth inning...a pitcher they were familiar with: Landon King. He was the guy who came in late to shut them down in the game earlier in the year, and mixed in three strikeouts in the last inning including the final out to secure our victory. Full of confidence and spirit, Landon took the mound against the vaunted Rambler offense. After an initial hard hit single, the tension rose for the Bandits. Landon stayed cool, and got a ground ball from the next batter and Patrick Blee and Zeke Pruitt turned a perfect 4-6-3 double play to snag momentum back, and inch a little closer to what felt like an upset to our team. Landon channelled his previous play from game 1 against the Ramblers on May 21st, and struck out the last batter of the inning and thankfully, the game. Bandits win this one, and advance to the GOLD Championship game in the Summer Nationals.
Sidenote, and yes this is a repeat: We understand this is more of a state championship game, and not any type of national championship...Still - very proud of our boys because they competed at the highest level we could find against a collection of talent and quality of 9u teams that is unparalleled around our state. There wasn't that "one" team in the tournament you don't want to see; ALL those teams were in this tournament.
Leading offensive guys in this game were: Christopher Wurster with 2-3 (two singles, 1 run), Zeke Pruitt at 2-3 (two doubles, reached via error and scored 2 runs), Patrick Blee going 2-2 (2 singles), Dalton Skipper going 1-3 with a BIG double, and Brody Crawford going 1-2 (single, sac fly in the last inning, 2 runs scored, HBP). Overall, we played pretty good team defense. We stayed tough during the heat as it wore on our guys after being in it for about five hours by the time this game concluded. What awaited was a showdown with a very tough opponent sporting a 41-9 record. Game 3 for the Bandits would be a pivotal one; it was a game we earned the hard way seeing most team's ace pitchers along the way, and scratching our way to make an appearance. Would we have enough left in the tank to strike a final blow to another Goliath?
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