LANGHORNE MANOR – The regrouping plan didn’t quite come to fruition for the Spring City’s American Legion baseball team on June 21, but the Red Sox’ 2-1 loss to Bristol wasn’t for lack of effort in the later innings of their Pa. Region 3 Tournament game.
The Sox bowed out of the double-elimination tourney in second-day action at Cairn University, done in by two of their three defensive miscues committed during Bristol’s first at-bat. They stayed close with help from a solid pitching effort by Louie Vining, closed the gap in the sixth inning, but were unable to pull even over the final 3-1/3 innings and found themselves done for the summer.
“We had more opportunities than we needed,” Spring City head coach Mike Walton said afterward, “but we didn’t get anything off them.”
In the wake of Saturday’s opening-round loss to Wayne, Walton recalled how the 2010 Red Sox had worked back from first-day losses in every tournament in which they participated. He had the same hope for this go-round, but it fell short.
Spring City (23-9) found itself stymied by Bristol starting pitcher Dylan Evert, who worked a no-hitter through the first 4-2/3 innings. Angelo Kelly broke up the no-no with a single through the third/shortstop gap, and David Gulati added another base hit after Nick Fuhrmeister was hit by a pitch.
That ended up the second of two bases-loaded opportunities on which the Sox were unable to capitalize. They stranded a total of 12 runners along the way, including one apiece in the eighth and ninth innings.
“The big thing,” Walton said, “was to get everyone up in place for our best hitters to execute. But that didn’t happen.”
An error on Devon Bowker’s hit at shortstop, and Gage Marshall’s sacrifice bunt, set the stage for Evert’s RBI single up the middle. A subsequent misplay on Daniel Sullivan’s bouncer got Evert in position to score off Zachary Schwartz’s single.
Bristol would get runners in scoring position four more times, though its best chance to pad the lead came in the sixth. Evert led off with a walk, moved to second on a balk called against Vining and third on a passed ball, only to get cut down at home plate when SC first baseman Shane Emrich fielded Sullivan’s bouncer and relayed to catcher Corey Rantz for the play at the plate.
“I think the balk call was ticky-tack,” Walton said. “But the pitcher did what he had to do. That showed mental discipline.”
The Sox small-balled their way on the scoreboard in the sixth, Billy Conroy reaching base on an error and going to third off Emrich’s grounder to short. A passed ball enabled Conroy to score, giving Spring City renewed hope for a comeback.
The hope continued when Rantz doubled to left-center. Nate Fretz’s single kept the hope going, but it was extinguished as Bristol’s Alexander Slezosky fielded the ball and fired it to home plate, Sullivan making a tag on Rantz that Walton found questionable.
“I thought he was safe,” the Sox skipper noted, “but the umpire said they had him all the way. If we had tied the game up, it would have been quite a momentum shift.”
“That was huge for us, considering it was the potential tying run,” Evert said. “Our catcher stayed in front of the plate and got the tag.”
The locals tried again in the ninth with Kelly singling and Gulati walking on a 3-1 count. But Matt Shea, pitching the last two innings in relief of Evert, racked up two strikeouts after Marshall made a heroic over-the-shoulder catch of Fretz’s fly to center.
“In the ninth, I think we had our best guys in scoring position,” Walton said.
Spring City’s early exit from the state regional came less than a week after it won the Chester County League playoffs by taking two championship-round games in the same day.
“Coming out after winning the league, we would have liked to show better,” Walton said. “Today, if we hadn’t kicked the ball around twice, it could have been different.
“The guys came together as a team,” he added. “They got better at embracing the team concept. I’m proud of them.”
Looking ahead to 2014, Walton noted the team will be losing a combined five seniors and “super seniors” – players who graduated high school prior to this year. “But we have a good bunch of young and middle players returning,” he said. ... Gulati was the beneficiary of two of the three walks Bristol issued. ... The Lower Bucks champions stay alive in the losers’ bracket, continuing Monday at 12:30 p.m. against the loser of the Downingtown/Morelanders winners’ bracket semifinal. “It’s a five-day tournament,” Evert said, “and we’re hoping to prolong it to Day Five.”
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