PLYMOUTH — Post 27’s so-called number two lineup gave their coaches something to think about Friday.
After the Diamond Spyders’ usual lineup collected just six hits in the team’s first two games at the Patriot Tournament, Post 27’s second string racked up 14 against the Ajax Baseball Club of Ontario, Canada. The result was a 7-4 win and a rebound from an earlier 6-2 loss at the hands of Three Oaks, Michigan earlier Friday.
After Plymouth earned the split in its two games Friday, Three Oaks went on to drop an 11-10 decision in nine innings versus Mishawaka Post 161 in the nightcap. That left all three teams — Plymouth, Mishawaka and Three Oaks — tied up at 2-1 in Pool A play at the tournament, and tiebreakers gave Post 27 the top seed headed into the weekend’s seeded tourney.
The Spyders will play Pool B fourth seed Valparaiso Post 94 in the opening game today at 10 a.m. Pool A third seed Three Oaks will face Pool B second seed Highland Post 180 in a game tentatively scheduled for noon, while second seed Mishawaka will play Pool B third seed Kokomo Post 6 at 2 p.m., and Pool A fourth seed Ajax will take on Pool B top seed Bristol Post 143 at 4 p.m. The losers from games one and two will play in a consolation game at 6 p.m., and the losers of the remaining two games will play another consol match at 8 p.m. at Bill Nixon Field. The winners of the first two games advance to play one another in the opening semifinal at 10 a.m. Sunday, and the second semifinal will be played after. Winners of those games will advance to the tournament championship scheduled for 2 p.m.
Plymouth’s number two lineup adjusted quickly to the tourney’s all-wooden bat format Friday, getting off to a fast start against Ajax’s Andrew Boros with half of the Spyders’ hits coming in the first two innings en route to a 4-2 lead. The hosts tacked on three more runs over the next three innings, enough to hold off a seventh-inning rally by the home team on the scoreboard.
“The funny thing is our number two group as we call them, they come in and put 14 hits up on the board here today,” said Post 27 manager Will Hostrawser. “I think we’re going to have to reevaluate who’s number one and who’s number two after performances like that. Hitting with the wood bats, I think a lot of kids try to overswing. We had a lot of pop-up outs, fly ball outs in the first couple games, and these kids seemed to level off a little more and hit the ball down a little better or more consistently anyway, and we did a nice job running the bases and supporting one another.”
“It takes all of us to win, that’s for sure,” added Hostrawser. “We’ll see what we do tomorrow lineup-wise. We’ve got to hit the old drawing board and see what happens.”
Jason Ferguson and Jacob Frantz reached on consecutive base hits, setting the table for Tanner Hampton’s two-run double to deep center to put Post 27 up 2-0 before Kyle Liedtky lined into an unassisted double play at second, and Riley Cartwright grounded out to short to retire the side.
Ajax responded with two runs of its own in the bottom of the inning, but the Spyders scratched out another two in the second when Tyler LaFollette and Spencer Maecroft led off with back-to-back singles, LaFollete scored on a groundout to second, and Maecroft crossed home plate on a base hit back up the middle by Peter Shepherd to put Plymouth back on top 4-2.
Triton’s Jayden Hargrave worked his way out of a bases-loaded jam taking over for Post 27 starter Brayden Davidson in the third, and the Diamond Spyders tacked on three runs over the next three innings — as Adamson and Cartwright capitalized on lead-off walks in the third and fifth innings, and Shepherd led off the fourth with a single — before the Plymouth offense went silent in the sixth.
Culver Community’s Nick Pritz struggled in his role as closer in the seventh, walking five of seven batters to cut Plymouth’s lead to 7-4 and put the winning run at the plate. Boros scored on a wild pitch, and Nicholas Greenslade was walked in to bring the score to its final margin before Bremen’s Eric Knepper took over with the bases loaded, fanning Ajax nine hitter Lucas Egan in a seven-pitch duel to seal the win.
“Nick Pritz, he didn’t throw a lot during the season for Culver, and we’re trying to get him in. He’s such a good athlete, and he’s got such a good arm,” said Hostrawser. “He threw two innings Wednesday and looked really sharp, and we brought him in here just to see how he would bounce back. I think his arm was a little tender there and he tried overthrowing and just didn’t count it out real well. We got into some trouble, but then we brought Knepper in and he finished it up for us and did a nice job. He’s a gamer.”
The win over Ajax followed up an earlier loss Friday to Three Oaks, 6-2.
Three Oaks broke the game open early with five runs in the second, capitalizing on a leadoff error, four hits, a wild pitch and a missed cut-off throw to jump up 5-0. The home team on the scoreboard plated its only other run off three straight hits and a sac fly in the third as Three Oaks racked up seven of its eight total hits for the game over the second and third innings alone.
“We didn’t make some key plays defensively. We missed a cut-off man coming in and gave them an extra base and then our catcher throws it out in centerfield and that gives them the opportunity to advance, and those are things that happen that we have to overcome here and learn from,” Hostrawser said of the big second by Three Oaks. “When those kids come in the dugout we’re in their trying to instruct them the best that we can and hopefully they learn from it and don’t allow that stuff to happen again.”
Plymouth scored its only two runs in the fifth when Davidson and Jared Lemler drew a pair of walks, and Shay Hepler pulled a two-out, two-run triple to deep right.
“I tell you, Shay has done a nice job this year. He’s worked really hard to improve himself as a player both defensively and offensively,” said Hostrawser. “I was sitting there talking to coach (Nick) Chaney between the innings, and this is not a triple-friendly ballpark at all. That’s probably the only place in the park you can hit the ball and get a triple. I give Shay a lot of credit because he’s running the bases hard, picking up Coach Chaney at third as he’s coming around second; he just puts his head down and gives it all he has and a bang-bang play at third and luckily he slid in there just before the tag. They had a great relay in… and Shay just outhustled them there. That was nice and it was a spark for us.”
• 3RD ANNUAL PLYMOUTH POST 27 PATRIOT TOURNAMENT
At Bill Nixon Field
POST 27 7, AJAX CLUB 4
Plymouth: 221 110 0 — 7 14 0
Ajax: 200 000 2 — 4 6 0
Braydon Davidson, Jayden Hargrave (3, W), Nick Pritz (7), Eric Knepper (7, Sv); Andrew Boros (L).
2B: Andre Deans (A), Tanner Hampton (P), Clayton Adamson (P).
THREE OAKS 6, POST 27 2
Plymouth: 000 020 0 — 2 4 2
Three Oaks: 051 000 0 — 6 4 0
LP: Riley Cartwright;
3B: Shay Hepler (P)