Spyders win Patriot Tourney opener

PLYMOUTH — Post 27 opened its 3rd Annual Patriot Tournament with a win, and the Diamond Spyders did it in pretty dramatic fashion.
Plymouth centerfielder Eric Knepper caught Mark Arrowsmith trying to score the game-tying run in an unusual double rundown situation in the top of the seventh, and Post 27 escaped with a narrow 2-1 win over visiting Mishawaka Post 161 in the second game at Bill Nixon Field Thursday.
“We’re going to play a lot of baseball here over the next few days, and it’s always good to get the nice win. Our kids buckled down there at the end of the ballgame, which was a good thing to see,” said Post 27 manager Will Hostrawser. “Our kids are enthusiastic, they’re excited about playing in the tournament. We’ve been in a couple of tournaments this year and haven’t had much success, so we’re anxious to defend our home turf here and have a good showing. These kids take a lot of pride in doing that.”
The Spyders scored their only two runs in the bottom of the first and maintained a tenuous 2-0 lead until the top of the seventh, when Matt Royeca and Arrowsmith tapped out back-to-back singles to start the frame, and nine hitter Justin Holloman laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance both into scoring position. Plymouth first baseman Clayton Adamson dug out a short throw from Post 27 pitcher Tyler LaFollete on Holloman’s bunt to hold Royeca and Arrowsmith at second and third while giving his team the first out of the inning, Isaiah White grounded out to third as the top of the order came back around, and it looked like LaFollete and company might be able to complete the shutout before the Plymouth reliever walked Mishawaka pitcher C.J. Swartz to load the bases and Tyler Reece’s grounder got past Adamson and Spyders second baseman Drew McDonald as both dove for the roller, scoring Royeca and putting the visitors on the board.
But Post 27 right fielder Nick Pritz’s throw home on the play beat out Arrowsmith as he attempted to score, and both he and Swartz were caught in no-man’s land. What followed was a wild double rundown between home and third and second and third before Knepper — who had come in from centerfield to back up the play at second — hit LaFollete deep down the third baseline, and LaFollete’s reaching tag of Arrowsmith sealed the win, 2-1.
“I told the guys when we got together at the end of the ballgame I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’ve never seen that — a centerfielder to the pitcher on a rundown situation like that,” said Hostrawser.
“The rundown play was a unique play. We had to make some good throws, and we’ll talk about that in the dugout here when the guys come back. We want to handle that a little bit differently in terms of the number of throws and where the tags are made. We’ll work through that... It was a nice win, I’ll just say that.”
Post 27 got all of its scoring done in the first before Swartz settled in in the second inning.
The Spyders punished the Mishawaka right-hander for a rocky start capitalizing on a walk, a hit batsman and an infield error. Tanner Hampton drew a one-out walk on four straight balls, Pritz was hit in the shoulder by a pitch with two out, Kyle Liedtky drove in Hampton with a single into center field, and Adamson’s blooper to third was overthrown, allowing Pritz to score before McDonald grounded out to third to end the inning with the home team leading 2-0.
Post 27 never scored again and managed just one more hit against Swartz, who allowed only three Plymouth baserunners after the first, giving up two hits with two walks versus three strikeouts going the distance on the hill for Mishawaka.
Hostrawser attributed at least part of his team’s paucity of hits Thursday to the all-wooden bat format of the Patriot Tournament, which is sponsored by Hoosier Bat.
“Wood bats are going to play different,” he said. “I think offensively we’ve struggled here lately, and when you put the wooden bats in you have to hit a little bit different and be a lot more true — those wooden bats aren’t quite as forgiving as the aluminum ones. I like it; I’m more of a baseball traditionalist.”
“You’ve got to give props to their pitching and their defense as well,” added the Post 27 manager. “We put the ball in play — we didn’t strike out much tonight, so that was a positive for us.”
Jacob Frantz gave the home team two hitless innings in the start before LaFollete relieved him in the third, and LaFollete got the win allowing six hits and a walk for one run as Post 27’s defense — highlighted by a pair of diving catches by Knepper in center and five assists from Liedtky at third— left eight Mishawaka runners stranded on base, including five in the last two innings alone.
“I’ve got to give Mishawaka credit; they were opportunistic. Tyler threw very well. We’re trying to flip-flop our pitching a little bit going with a little bit different strategy because we’ve found when our pitch count gets to a certain level guys start tapering off. Tyler was right at the end of his window there, and he gutted through that and kept us there,” Hostrawser said.
Thursday’s win echoed an earlier 5-2 win by the Spyders over Mishawaka at Bill Nixon Field back on June 20. It was the second straight victory for Plymouth following a 6-0 win over Ajax Canada on Wednesday.
Post 27 continues pool play today with a game versus Three Oaks, Michigan at noon followed by a rematch with Ajax at 2 p.m. Mishawaka opens today’s Pool A play at Bill Nixon Field against Ajax at 10 a.m. and closes out play versus Three Oaks at 4 p.m.
In Pool B play at Ancilla College, meanwhile, Bristol plays Highland at 10 a.m., Valparaiso plays Kokomo at noon, Bristol and Kokomo square off at 2 p.m., and Valpo plays Highland at 4 p.m. The two pools will enter the seeded tourney portion of the Patriot Tournament Saturday at Bill Nixon Field.
At 3rd Annual Plymouth
Post 27 Patriot Tournament
Mishawaka: 000 000 1 — 1 6 2
Plymouth: 200 000 x — 2 2 2
Jacob Frantz, Tyler LaFollete (3, W); C.J. Swartz (L)