Devils top Manchester twice to grab crown –
By Mark Carpenter –
Two familiar foes met at the Peebles Rec Park diamond on June 27, with the Southern Ohio Youth Baseball League 8U Senior Division baseball tournament championship on the line. Battling their way out of the loser’s bracket of the double elimination tourney, the North Adams Devils made their way into the championship round where they found themselves facing the Manchester Greyhounds , a team they had tied with for the regular season title and the team that had handed them their first tourney loss by a score of 6-4.
That scenario left the North Adams squad with the unenviable task of having to defeat the Greyhounds twice to win the tournament title, and the young bunch of Devils proved themselves to be worthy of the task, sweeping a double header from their Manchester foes, taking Game One 5-2 to force a winner-take-all second game, with North Adams again coming out on top and claiming the tourney crown with a 7-4 triumph.
The 8U baseball league has its own set of unique rules, beginning with games lasting four innings. In the first and third innings, the game is “coach pitch”, where a coach from each team handles the pitching duties. In the second and fourth frames, a player does the pitching, but the game has no walks. If a batter gets four balls pitched to him, then the coach returns to finish out the at-bat, with a limit of seven pitches.
In the top of the first inning of the first game, North Adams got the game’s scoring underway. Two-hole hitter Trace Evans blasted a triple to left center and came home on a base hit to right by Trannin Maddox. The Greyhounds wasted no time in evening up the score, scoring one in the bottom of the first on an infield hit by Marshall Poole, a base hit to center by Brayden Palmer, and a run-scoring infield hit by Bryce Young. After right hander Carson Horner set the Devils down in order in the top of the second, the Hounds took the lead in their half with the righty Maddox on the rubber for North Adams. Allen Will led off with an infield hit and later scored on another infield single, this one by James Hackathorn.
In the top of the third, the Devils took the lead for good, scoring three times. With one out, Noah Pace singled and came all the way around on a two-base hit just inside the left field line by left-handed swinging Kaiden Johnson. Johnson’s double was followed by a base hit by Kyser Swayne and they both eventually scored to put North Adams on top 4-2.
The Greyhounds put two runners on in the bottom of the third but left both stranded and the Devils added one to their lead off of Horner in the bottom half on a triple to right center by Carson Davis, who scored when a pop up off the bat of Kaden Wilson dropped just out of the reach of Palmer at shortstop. In the bottom of the fourth, lefty Austin Bissantz was on the mound for the Devils and he fanned all three batters he faced as North Adams claimed game one by a score of 5-2.
After a short break on a warm night, the two teams took the field for the decisive second contest, and the Greyhounds again took an early advantage with a run in the top of the first on an infield hit by Hackathorn and an RBI fielder’s choice ground ball off the bat of Young. That lead was short-lived, however, as the Devils answered with three in the bottom half. Swayne led off with a single, Evans reached on an error, and a double to left by Bissantz brought home Swayne to tie the score. An RBI ground out by Davis scored Evans and gave North Adams the lead, then a base hit to right by Wilson made it 3-1.
Bissantz retired the Hounds 1-2-3 in the top of the second and the Devils’ offense added to their lead in the bottom half with Palmer now pitching for Manchester. Jacob Wheeler led off with a base hit to center, followed by a single to left by Pace. Both of those runners came around to score after a pair of Greyhound errors and North Adams was on top 5-1.
Coach Shawn Palmer’s Manchester team is a young, but certainly scrappy bunch, and they battled back, scoring three times in the top of the third. An infield hit by Poole started the rally and after Hackathorn popped out to first, Will singled and a base hit to left by Palmer brought home a run and another scored when the ball got past the North Adams left fielder. After a base hit by Young scored Palmer, the Hounds had made it a one-run game, down just 5-4.
On this night, though, the Devils were not to be denied and they bounced right back by adding two runs in their third at-bat, the first coming when Maddox smashed a line drive to right that got past the right fielder, allowing Maddox to come all the way around to score to make it a two-run lead. Davis followed with a two-bagger to left and later scored on a Wilson ground out that made it a three-run advantage.
The Devils were now just three outs away from the tourney title, and they took care of that business quickly with Maddox pitching the top of the fourth. The right hander struck out all three batters he faced, firing his hat and glove into the air after the final out as his teammates and coaches joined in the celebration of a hard-earned tournament championship.
Kudos also to the runner-up Greyhounds, who played the championship round with one player on vacation and their top pitcher injured, but still fought gamely until the final out as a very competitive 8U baseball season came to a close for 2018 and showed glimpses of bright futures for some local baseball programs.