By Gregg A. Sims Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — TERRE HAUTE — It would easy to point to the eight runs scored by Sullivan in the fourth and fifth innings for Washington’s elimination from the American Legion Baseball Sectional at Terre Haute North Sunday.
But it’s just as easy to look at missed scoring chances by the Freedom in the third and fourth innings for Sullivan’s 11-2 win in the first of two loser’s bracket games during a baseball trifecta.
Sullivan scored single runs in the first and third innings before the two-inning mid-game outburst that placed Washington in a hole that it could not escape.
“We missed some early chances that might have put a different face on the game,” Washington manager Jeff Truelove said. “You never know, but we didn’t have a lack of offense. We just didn’t enough hits at the right times.”
Sullivan scored its first single run in the top of the opening inning against Freedom starter Casey Miller, but the run was unearned and hardly Miller’s fault.
Freedom shortstop Jake Bedwell misplayed two balls in the inning that opened the door for Tanner Butler to bring home Casey Garner with a single.
Sullivan scored its second single run in the third as Dylan Collins opened the inning with a single before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt by Kyler Fulford, who reached first by dislodging the ball from Miller near the first base line on the attempted tag. But Washington catcher Gavin Benock caught Fulford straying from first for the first out before Butler walked.
The inning appeared innocent enough as Miller got Jacob Haugher to pop to Bedwell at short for the second out. But Miller then struck Noble Harrison and Trey Bedwell to force in the game’s second run.
Facing the win or go-home situation, Trulove called for Trevor Claridge to relieve, and Claridge got Cam Kuppler on strikes.
Nolan Walker singled with one out in the bottom of the inning and Brady Like reached first on a slow roller to Kuppler at second. Kuppler tried to catch Walker at second, but his throw was late, giving the Freedom two runners with one out.
But Sullivan starter Brock Dowell induced a double play ground ball from Benock to end the threat.
Sullivan then struck with the three runs in the fourth on doubles from Braxton Yeryer, Butler and Haugher.
Washington tried to rally in the bottom of the inning on consecutive one-out singles from Tyler Edmiston, Bailey White and Brayden Walls. Bedwell fanned and Dowell retired Claridge on a fly to right to end what proved to be the Freedom’s last real chance.
Sullivan put the game away with the five-run fifth. That inning might have been deverted after Kuppler and Yeryer singled with one out. Claridge got Garner to hit a ground ball back to the box, but his throw to second to start the anticipated double play was low allowing Kuppler to score from second on the play.
Collins grounded to Bedwell for the second out to score Yeryer, but a walk, a hit batter and a single from Haugher that Like could not corrall ended Claridge’s night. Truelove went to Walls, and despite allowing a double to Harrison, Sullivan’s scoring for the inning ended.
Walls went the rest of the way, allowing one run, that coming in the eighth on two walks, a hit batter and a single.
Truelove faced a difficult pitching decision before the game started. He had planned to start Walls in Washington’s opening round 12-11 loss to Clinton Friday. But Walls could not play due to a technicality of paperwork.
That left Truelove with the age-old decision of starting Walls in Sunday’s game and losing him if Washington defeated Sullivan. The Freedom would not have had Walls on the hill in Sunday’s loser bracket nightcap against Clinton, who had dropped an earlier 2-1 decision to tournament favorite Terre Haute Wayne Newton.
Washington held two wins against Sullivan in the regular season, and Truelove was hoping his team could gain that tough third while holding Walls for the finale.
“We have good starting pitching, and I was hoping it would work out so that we would Brayden ready for the second game,” Truelove said. “Maybe I should have brought Brayden into the game earlier. I guess that’s on me, but we thought we had a good chance with our pitchers to save Brayden for the final game that would have gotten us into Monday. Things just didn’t work out the way we had hoped.”
Sunday night’s winner advanced to the first of two potential championship games on Monday against Newton, which had two tournament wins without a loss. The first game was scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
Sunday’s games had been set for Saturday, but heavy rains made their way through Vigo and Sullivan County before Newton and Clinton could start the first of the three games.
Washington got on the board with a single run in the fifth on a sacrifice fly from Miller to score Walker. Washington scored the following inning as Trevor Resler grounded to first to bring Walls home from third.
Washington also placed two runners on base with two outs in the seventh against reliever Nolan Kinnert who entered the game in relief of Dowell to start the sixth on a walk to Benock and an error by Kuppler on a ground ball by Edmiston. But the potential rally died.
“We’re hoping to have a lot of our players back for next season,” Truelove said. “We’ve been trying to build the program the last two years (the Freedom was started last summer by Truelove), and I think we’re getting there. I love the guys we’ve had, and the guys coming back. They played hard, and that’s all you can ask.”
Sullivan 101 250 010 - 11 11 1
Washington 000 011 000 - 2 11 4
Brock Dowell,Nolan Kinnert (6) and Dylan Collins, Cam McNealy (8). Casey Miller, Trevor Claridge (3), Brayden Walls (5) and Gavin Bencok. W-Dowell. L-Miller. 2B: S, Braxton Yeryer, Tanner Butler, Jacob Haugher, Noble Harrison.
Washington and Sullivan each collect 11 hits, but Sullivan takes 11-2 win in American Legional Sectional at Terre Haute High School Sunday.