Neil Lambert has been around baseball long enough to know giving an opponent too many extra opportunities can prove hazardous.
Caroline Post 29 showed fight in its two games at last weekend’s American Legion state tournament at Frederick’s McCurdy Field, but couldn’t find enough compensation to offset too many walks and some critical miscues.
“We battled,” said Lambert, Caroline’s head coach, whose team dropped Friday’s opener to defending state champ St. Mary’s Post 255, 12-6, before being eliminated via a 7-4 loss Saturday against La Plata Post 82. “They definitely weren’t yawners. They hit the ball well in some situations and we couldn’t get out of our own way in some situations. And when you give teams that many opportunities they’re going to usually come out on top.”
Solid pitching had been among the cornerstones to an 11-1 regular season for Post 29. But Caroline issued 10 walks in its opener against St. Mary’s, which took advantage of four walks, a hit batter, and an outfield error during an eight-run third inning.
“We just had that one meltdown inning,” Lambert said.
Despite that, Post 29 rallied within 9-6 in the top of the sixth. But St. Mary’s pushed three more unearned runs across in its half of the sixth to put the finishing touches on the 12-6 victory.
Will Turner, who batted .429 this past season at Delaware Tech, led Caroline, going 2 for 4, including a booming two-run homer that some estimated traveled close to 400 feet, and three RBIs. Josh Cohee also went 2 for 4 with a run scored, Tanner Young (1 for 3) scored twice, and Hunter Wolfe (1 for 2) knocked in a run.
Post 29 (11-3) trailed La Plata, 4-3, before drawing even at 4-all in the fifth inning of the second game.
Kyle Speas pitched five innings against La Plata, but was lifted after walking Post 82’s leadoff man in the sixth. Mason Pate relieved and walked one batter and hit another to load the bases. Lambert brought on Josh Cohee, who induced a pair of groundouts to keep the game tied at 4-4. But La Plata’s Andrew Leginze then hit a towering fly ball that got behind Caroline left fielder Chris Curler for a three-run double.
La Plata retired Caroline’s last six batters in order to seal the win.
Turner again led Post 29 at the plate, going 2 for 3 with an RBI. Young was 2 for 4 with two runs scored, and Wolfe was 1 for 3 with a run scored.
While Lambert noted Caroline’s miscues came at the most inopportune times, his pitching staff’s uncharacteristic control troubles forced him to alter how he wanted to use his arms against St. Mary’s.
“In Legion you have a pitch-count rule and an appearances rule,” said Lambert, who started Carl Stump against the defending champs and used Zack Robbins, Jayden Watkins and Curler in relief. “When you struggle pitching and you begin using arms it definitely creates some tough scenarios for when you bring guys in, and how much you throw them.
“In Legion it’s two appearances in three days,” Lambert continued. “So when you’re walking kids and burning pitches, which then moves other pitchers into the rotation you didn’t plan on using, it kind of cramps you up. We had a kind of different sequence in mind for the tournament, but the situation we were in on day one, it changed a little bit of our sequencing for day two.”