For the North Adams Green Devils baseball squad, it was a goal reached but much too quick an ending in last Saturday’s district semi-final match up with the No. 1 seeded Trimble Tomcats in the Division IV tournament. Playing on the turf at Chillicothe’s V.A. Memorial Stadium, the Devils fell into an early 4-0 hole, three of the runs unearned, and saw their season come to a close in an eventual 4-1 defeat.
“Today was still a great experience for the kids in our baseball program,” said North Adams head coach Rob Meade. “One of our goals this season was to win a sectional championship and we were able to realize that goal for only the second baseball sectional title in school history.”
After capturing the sectional crown with a 7-2 win over Whiteoak, the Devils faced a tough task last Saturday afternoon in Chillicothe, matching up with the Tomcats. The Devils were tuned in on Trimble pitching all day, hitting a number of balls hard to the outfield, but all of them seemed to find the glove of the Tomcat center fielder, who managed to be all over the outfield turf.
“Although I was disappointed in the outcome of the game, I was pleased with the way our boys competed,” added Meade. “Hank Sparks stepped up to the challenge on the mound and threw the ball very well. All through our lineup we made solid contact all day with numerous hard hit balls.”
“Unfortunately most of those were right at defenders. Trimble was very sound defensively and made some very nice plays.”
After the Devils went scoreless in the top of the first, the Tomcats struck in their half off the southpaw Sparks. A Tomcat runner crossed the plate on a passed ball into the wide expanses behind home plate at the V.A., giving his team a 1-0 lead.
Trimble came right back in the bottom of the second to plate three more, the last runs they scored on the day as Sparks settled down to fire four consecutive scoreless innings. A walk, two base hits, an error, and another hit all together produced a 4-0 advantage for the top-seeded Cats.
The Green Devils were having no luck finding holes against the Trimble defense, going down on three sharply hit balls in the top of the third and a trio of fly balls to the outfield in the fourth.
North Adams finally got on the board in the top half of the fifth and likely could have had more than the one they got. Austin Copas began the inning by reaching on an error and the next hitter, Ethan Brown, laced a line drive double into the left field corner. Copas advanced to third on the play and had thoughts of trying to make a run for the plate. In his slight moment of indecision, he ventured a bit too far off of third and the Trimble cut-off man threw behind him and nailed Copas trying to slide head first back into the third base bag.
Kenny Branch hit a solid ball to center that was tracked down for the second out, bringing senior Blake Bradley to the plate. Bradley delivered the two-out run scoring hit, blooping one into center field to score Brown from second with what turned out to be the only North Adams run of the day.
With his team now down three scores, Sparks continued to stifle the Trimble offense, giving his team the opportunity to mount a comeback that just never happened.Haden Anderson reached for the Devils in the top of the sixth, hustling to first on a dropped third strike with one out, but Cody Hall hit into a fielder’s choice and Copas grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the sixth, Sparks had to work out of a tough spot when the Tomcats got runners to second and third with one out, but the lefty bore down and struck out two to extinguish the threat.
In their last at-bat, the Green Devils opened the inning with two hard hit balls off the bats of Brown and Branch, both of which found their way to the glove of the center fielder.With two away, Bradley reached on an infield hit to keep hopes alive and lead off hitter Mikey Sheeley laced another rocket to left center that the Trimble center fielder again chased down for the final out of the North Adams season.
“I am proud of this team and the way they carried themselves all season,” said Coach Meade after the loss. “We are going to miss our seniors but I am excited about the nucleus of players we have coming back next year.”
In the district loss and in his final mound appearance as a Green Devil, Sparks fired six innings of six hit baseball, striking out seven and giving up just a single earned run. As Coach Meade mentioned, the North Adams hitters made solid contact all day but could only produce four hits in the game, two of them by departing senior Blake Bradley.
The loss in the district semis left North Adams with a final record for 2014 of 8-10 as they say goodbye to seniors Devin Gardner, Hank Sparks, Haden Anderson, Cody Hall, and Blake Bradley.
Mark Carpenter can be reached at 937-544-2391 or on Twitter @adamscosports.
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N. Adams Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Sheeley 3-0-0-0, Gardner 3-0-0-0, Sparks 3-0-1-0, Anderson 3-0-0-0, Hall 3-0-0-0, Copas 3-0-0-0, Brown 3-1-1-0, Branch 3-0-0-0, Bradley 3-0-2-1, Team 27-1-4-1.
Extra-Base Hits: Brown 2B
Trimlbe Hitting (AB-R-H-RBI): Downs 3-1-2-0, Losey 3-0-0-0, Brammer 1-0-0-0, Lansford 3-0-1-0, Kish 2-1-0-0, Bragg 2-1-1-0, Standley 3-0-1-0, Jenkins 3-1-1-1, Simerly 3-0-0-0, Team 23-4-6-1.
N. Adams Pitching: Sparks (L) 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K, 93 pitches
Trimble Pitching: Losey (W) 7 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 1 K