Baltimore Survives Close Game
August 09, 2012 -
New Orleans appeared in control of this game until the ninth inning, when everything went Baltimore's way. The defending champions used clutch hitting and plate patience to walk off with a victory over arch rival New Orleans.
Boosters Quickly Strike First
As with Martella's Pharmacy the night before, things looked to be going the Booster's way early in the game. Pat Riley doubled to left with one out in the first, and Sean McMullen's single put runners on the corners. Riley scored on a fielder's choice, but the inning ended when Cameron Hoffman was caught stealing. After stranding two runners in the second, NORD put up a 3-spot in the third. With one out, Riley walked and then McMullen singled to right. Hoffman then doubled off the wall in left to score Riley. McMullen scored on a wild pitch. Three batters later, Matthew Smith singled to score Hoffman from third.
New Orleans starter Travis Bencaz from Delgado Community College retired Baltimore in order through the first eight batters, including six ground outs. Brock Niggebrugge broke up the no-hitter with a single to center in the third, which was followed by a single from Monte Wade. Bencaz then walked Dominic Fratantuono to load the bases, but escaped the jam with Brendan Butler's fly out to center.
The Turning Point
Both teams went down quickly in the fourth, which was made possible thanks to NORD's double play after Kevin Hockaday led off with a hit to centerfield. In the fifth, Baltimore brought in Brandon Casas to pitch after McMullen started the inning with a double--his third hit of the day. The pitching change would be a pivotal moment in the game. The next batter was Cameron Hoffman, who hit a long fly ball to Monte Wade in centerfield. Wade made a spectacular snow-cone catch against the wall to retire Hoffman, but the speedy McMullen scored from second. However, the Orioles got the ball to second and McMullen was ruled out for leaving too early, which negated the run and gave the Boosters two outs. To make matters worse, McMullen would be sidelined for the rest of the game with an arm injury suffered during the collision at the plate. The Boosters only recorded two more hits in the game.
Baltimore Battles Back
The Orioles manufactured a run in the fifth. Mikal Hill led off with a single, advanced on Allan Bencid's ground out, and scored on Wade's ground out. In the sixth, lead off hitter Fratantuono struck out but reached first on a passed ball. The Dixielanders brought in pitcher Brandon Shearman who promptly struck out Butler and caused Hockaday to fly out, before allowing a deep centerfield triple to Ryan Ripken, pulling the Orioles to within two. Shearman struck out Brady Sheetz to end the inning.
Shearman allowed no hits in the seventh, but gave up a lead-off double to Wade in the eighth. Joshua Wood as brought in to pitch, but walked his first bater, Fratantuono. Butler and Hockaday both grounded into fielder's choice infield outs to put runners at the corners, but the Orioles stranded both runs as Ripken grounded out.
In the ninth inning, the Boosters had their chance to extend the lead. After two quick fly outs to center, top-of-the-order batter Joshua Faciane singled to centerfield. He advanced on a pass ball and Riley was walked on a 2-out, full-count pitch. With McMullen injured, Logan Jones was walked to load the bases. However, Hoffman grounded out to the shortstop to leave the bases loaded.
While Baltimore has won the majority of the recent championships, they have experiences several setbacks and close calls along the way. It seemed like this time, the Orioles would find themselves on the losing end of a close game, but Youse's squad used their final three outs stage a memorable comeback.
Brady Sheetz led off with a single to center off Shearman. Mikal Hill then singled off the Screen Monster and Bencid walked t load the bases. Pinch runner Cody Brittain replaced Bencid at first. Brock Niggebrugge grounded out to first base, and New Orleans sacrified a run fr the easy out at first. After falling behind in the count, Shearman intentionally walked Wade to load the bases.
With the tying run 90-feet away, Dominic Fratantuono was walked on several very close pitches that tested the batter's patience (and the spectator's nerves). That forced in the tying run and the bases were still loaded. The game ended anticlimatically as Shearman hit Brendan Butler (who was 0-for-4) with a pitch. The ending of the contest did not do justice to the great play shown by the teams throughout the game, but rewarded the Orioles for their perserverance through out the game and clutch hitting in the ninth. Several Boosters players disagreed with the close pitch-calls during Fratantuono's at-bat and loudly expressed their frustration to the home plate umpire. The win send Baltimore into a semi-final match with undefeated Cleveland at the Point Stadium on Friday at 1:00pm.
"It was a great come back," said Tim Norris, manager of the Baltimore club. "To be honest, all year, with the way we played in the [Cal Ripken] League, we questioned the fight in them, but I think we saw some fight in them tonight. We had a couple hits in the ninth to put some pressure on them, they walked a couple and hit a guy and we won the game."
New Orleans has a 10-game losing streak against Baltimore dating back to 2002.