Fruitland 7 — Easton 1
FREDERICK — It was hard to beat the heat Saturday at Robert B. Staley Stadium, with temperatures climbing toward the century mark as the state 11-12-year-old Little League Baseball state tournament began.
District 8 champ Fruitland’s six-run top of the fifth proved tough as well, the rally breaking a 1-1 tie while sending District 6 champ Easton into the loss bracket via a 7-1 final.
Easton got on the board in the opening inning, but had that rally cut short. Things began well, Easton starting pitcher Will Sherwood retiring Fruitland in order in the top of the first, two going down on strikes.
In the bottom half, Garrett Fink was hit by a pitch with one out, and stole second base two pitches later. After a strikeout, Kayden Webb smacked a single. Fink stumbled after rounding third, regained his footing and beat the throw that was bobbled by Fruitland’s catcher, for a 1-0. Webb made second on the play at the plate.
Mike O’Connor laid down a rare, two-out bunt. The ball rolled to the right side of Fruitland starting pitcher Chase Shepherd, whose throw to first was late, high, and wide, and rolled along the right-field fence in foul ground. Webb scored easily on the hit-and-error, and O’Connor dashed to third.
But no sooner had the dust settled on the play than a conference of the game’s six umpires ensued. Afterward, the teams’ managers were called out, and told the pitch to O’Connor should never have happened. Seeing an open gate in the fence along the third-base side, the right-field umpire attempted to call timeout as Shepherd delivered the pitch to O’Connor. After the conference, the play was ruled nullified. Webb was returned to second, O’Connor to the plate, and the pitch and its result were erased from scorebooks.
“That was just a huge change in the momentum,” Easton manager Cory Fink said. “We had scored one run, had just scored a second run, were in the middle of the lineup. Our starting pitcher was looking good, too. And for that to take a run off the board, and then the kid had to re-bat, and struck out, that was just a huge swing in the way things went.”
O’Connor struck out, ending the inning. Shepherd allowed a single hit in the second, but struck out the other three hitters he faced. Relieved after two innings, he notched five Ks.
Sherwood went 2 2/3 scoreless innings, fanning four, before being lifted for Webb, as Cory Fink tried to fight the dual battle of holding onto pitching for future games, while keeping his team in the current game with the arms available.
Fruitland tied the game in the top of the fourth, when Canaan Mapp (2 for 3) hit a solo homer to right-center field.
Easton, despite outhitting Fruitland, 7-4, “just couldn’t get the bats going at the right time,” Cory Fink said, his team stranding five runners in the game.
“We tried to spread out pitching, but obviously, being up 1-0 and with Sherwood throwing really well, we thought maybe our pitching and defense could hold them and we could put some runs on the board,” Cory Fink said. “But, obviously, that didn’t work out.”
Fruitland broke things open in the top of the fifth.
Dawson Daniels hit a leadoff double up the right-field line. Caden McKinney and David Harkins each walked, loading the bases with one out. Aiden Davis doubled to left field, scoring two runs to make it 3-1. Trevin Whitelock and Mapp each delivered RBI singles, and Caden Lefort capped the rally with a two-run single to left.
Easton could not reply in the fifth or sixth.
Easton is scheduled to play District 4 champ Laurel at 1 p.m. today in an elimination game. Laurel, playing in Saturday’s final game, was no-hit by D1 champ Conococheague, 2-0. Fruitland plays Laurel at 7 p.m.
East Region Playoffs
Randolph, N.J. 17
BANGOR, Maine — The Maryland state champs opened with two runs in the top of the first, but surrendered five in the bottom half to New Jersey.
Caroline (6-1) replied with two in the second to cut the deficit to a single run, and added three in the top of the fourth to move ahead 7-5. But Randolph answered in the bottom of the fourth with three runs for an 8-7 lead.
A run in the fifth and an eight-run explosion in the bottom of the sixth rounded out the rout-rule win.
Caroline, now in the elimination bracket, must win five straight games, including doubleheaders on back-to-back days, to win the East title and advance to the Senior League World Series, at the end of the month in Easley, S.C.
New Jersey rapped out 19 hits in the win. Caroline’s P.J. Gunther had two hits, scored twice, and drove in two runs. Jayden Watkins had two hits and two RBIs, Kyler Boyd scored two runs, and Jaden Rowan doubled.
Caroline plays in an elimination game Monday at 4:30 p.m. against either Maine or Massachusetts. Caroline defeated Massachusetts, 5-3 on Thursday in the tournament’s opening game, to put that team into the loss bracket.