By Mark Carpenter –
After numerous delays and then waiting out the Adams County Fair, two local Knothole squads finally found themselves back on the diamond on July 16, battling it out for the Southern Ohio Youth Baseball League 12U tournament championship. The tourney was played at Liberty Park in Sardinia and it was Manchester and North Adams facing off with the title on the line. The Greyhounds were coming out of the loser’s bracket, therefore needing to knock off the Devils twice to earn the championship, while North Adams just needed one win to claim the crown.
Manchester coach John Kennedy predicted before the game that it would be a pitcher’s duel and he was right on point as four hurlers, two from each team, fired strikes from start to finish, in a contest that couldn’t be decided in the usual six innings. Tied at two apiece after six, the Hounds came up with a pair of runs in the top of the seventh and held on for a 4-2 extra-inning win, forcing a “winner-take-all” title game on Thursday night, back in Sardinia.
It was the blue and gold who struck first, getting a run in the top half of the first off of North Adams starter Caleb Rothwell, when Brayden Roberts, who had walked, came in to score on a three-base hit to right off the bat of Leland Horner. When Manchester starter Landon Stafford blanked North Adams in the bottom half of the first, the Hounds added one to their lead in their second at-bat. Braiden Brown reached on a missed third strike, stole second and third, then slid home with his team’s second run on a wild pitch.
Manchester held the two-run lead until the Devils came to bat in the bottom of the third. Jayce Rothwell led off with an infield hit, stole second and third, and scored on a wild pitch. One out later, Asher Young repeated that exact same performance, sliding home under the catcher’s tag to tie the score at two, where it would stay for the next three innings as the bullpens took over and dominated, Carson Osborne for North Adams and Horner for the Greyhounds.
Neither team really threatened until the top of the sixth when Manchester had a golden opportunity to score after the first two batters were retired by Osborne. Drew Kennedy reached on a throwing error , then swiped second and third to get in scoring position. The North Adams coaching staff then decided to walk Horner intentionally, a move that worked out for them as Osborne got Stafford swinging to end the threat. In the bottom of the sixth, Horner struck out the side in order to force the game into extra innings with a little tinge of darkness beginning to creep in.
The Greyhounds struck quickly off of Osborne in the top of the seventh. Brown led off, reaching on an error, then stealing second and third. Logan Neria than hit a comebacker to the mound, but Osborne’s throw to the plate was high, allowing Brown to score the go-ahead run. Neria stole second and went to third on a passed ball, scoring on an RBI ground out by Kayden Butcher to give the Greyhounds a two-run cushion.
In the bottom of the seventh, Horner took care of business from the mound, striking out the side in order to seal the deal on a 4-2 Manchester win, that kept the Hounds alive in the 12U tourney, and forced the final and deciding game, scheduled for Thursday, July 19 at 6:30 p.m. in Sardinia.
It certainly was a night for pitching, as the two teams combined for only two base hits the entire game, one for each team, and the winning Hounds went the final six innings without a clean hit, but still came out on top. For North Adams, Caleb Rothwell went four innings, gave up two runs, just one hit, and struck out nine. Osborne was tagged with the loss, going three innings, allowing two runs, and striking out four.
For Manchester, starter Landon Stafford went the first four, allowing one hit and two runs, striking out six. Horner got the win and well-deserved, as he fired three perfect frames, striking out eight of the nine hitters that he faced.
110 000 2 —4
002 000 0 —2
UPDATE: The deciding game was played on July 18 and it was North Adams taking the tournament title, winning a 30-16 slugfest. Congratulations to the 12U Devils!