Six-run second propels Warriors to win –
Story and photos by Mark Carpenter –
The Southern Hills Youth League 14U baseball tournament championship was on the line on July 3 at Washington Park in Sardinia as Team Latos from Peebles, looking to avenge two regular season losses, battled a very solid Eastern squad who were looking to sew up a tourney title on their home field to go along with their regular season crown.
On the night before a national holiday, a big crowd turned out to cheer on both teams as they tangled for 14U supremacy. As it turned out, it was the Warriors who scored nine times in their first two at-bats, taking that margin and holding on for a 10-5 win to claim the tournament championship.
It was Peebles who drew first blood in the top of the first inning when Dawson Mills led off the game with a base on balls off of Eastern starter Curtis Snyder, stole second, and came home when Brennan Barr laced a single to right, a ball that landed right on the chalk to drive home the game’s first run.
That lead lasted a whole of five batters in the bottom of the first as the host team took a lead they never gave up. With right hander Devon Roepke on the mound for Team Latos, the Warriors took advantage of two Peebles errors and got a two-run single to center off the bat of Kolton Mock to take a 3-1 lead after one.
Peebles got on the board again in the top of the second when Easton Wesley drew a walk to lead off the frame and moved up on a one-out base hit to center by Brennan Kyle. A walk to Braxton Smart loaded the bases and another free pass issued to Wyatt Cluxton forced home the second Peebles run of the game.
In the bottom of the second, the whole tone of the game changed when the Warriors exploded for six runs, driving Roepke from the game when four of the first five batters in the inning hit safely. Roepke was replaced on the mound by Dawson Mills and when Mills let loose an errant throw to third on a bunt by Snyder, two runs came across to give Eastern a 8-2 lead.
A base hit to left by Mock drove home Snyder with another run and a two-out double to left by Colton Geering put Eastern runners at second and third, but Mills got the next hitter on a ground out to third to prevent any further damage, but the Warriors now held a commanding 9-2 advantage.
Team Latos added another single run in the top of the third when Zane Knechtly walked, went to third on a base hit by Logan Mahan, and scored on a ground out by Barr off of Eastern reliever Andres Vargas.
After a rough start when he came on in relief in the second, Mills settled down and retired the Warriors in order in the third and put another goose egg on the scoreboard in the fourth when a nice grab of a line drive by second baseman Knechtly turned into an inning ending double play.
Peebles got another run back in the top of the fifth when Bryce Willoughby blooped a base hit to right, stole second, and when he took off for third the catcher’s throw was wild, allowing Willoughby to cross the plate and make it 9-4.
The Warriors matched that run in their half of the fifth, scoring on a Peebles error to hit double digits and extend the margin back to six runs. In the top of the sixth, and for the fifth time in six at-bats, Team Latos plated a single run as Barr reached on an error, stole second, and came home on an infield hit to third by Kyle. Smart drew a walk to keep Peebles’ hopes alive, but when he took off to steal second, Kyle strayed a bit too far off of third and was tagged out in a rundown for the final out of the game as the Warriors claimed the 14U tournament with the 10-5 victory.
It was an end to a bittersweet season for the close-knit Peebles boys, who will now see themselves split up as some move on to high school baseball, where they should certainly be prepared to represent the Indians on and off the diamond.