Friday, July 3, 2009

American Legion baseball: Saratoga Stampede falls to defending Maryland state champs

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Three hit batters and some uncharacteristically poor defense doomed the Saratoga Stampede 19U American Legion baseball team as it fell to defending Maryland State champion Gaithersburg Post 295, 8-6, on a rainy Thursday morning at Geyser Park.

The Stampede (14-4) had cruised through the first five innings, holding a 5-3 lead before the wheels came off in the top of the sixth.

The trouble began when relief pitcher Billy McDonough hit the leadoff batter Danny Young on a two-strike pitch. Zack Skellchock entered as a pinch hitter for Post 295 (16-2) and dropped down a bunt single which was followed by McDonough hitting Gary Schneider with a pitch to load the bases with nobody out.

Mike Ryan was up next and hit what appeared to be a tailor-made double play ball to short but Mike Allen’s throw to second went into right field and allowed Young and Skellchock to head home tying the game at five while Schneider took third base to put runners on the corners for Matt Civetti. Civetti drew a walk to load the bases again. Nick Loftus then hit a chopper to first. Erich Lange went to field the ball but it tipped off his glove and rolled away from him allowing Schneider and Ryan to and give Post 295 a 7-5 lead. Civetti scampered into third on the play.

McDonough recorded the first out on a grounder back to the mound by Chris Rados but Brian Black followed by plating Civetti with Post 295’s final run on a ground out to third. After he drilled Tyler Ewing for his third hit batter of the inning, McDonough got Young to end the inning.

While most of the damage done to the Stampede was self-inflicted, Skellchock, who had two hits and stole a base after entering the game in the sixth, credited his team with putting the ball in play.

“We woke up there late in the game,” said Skellchock. “Sometimes it takes us a while to get into a game that starts as early (10 a.m.) as this one.”

Saratoga did get one back in the bottom of the seventh when Shane Matthews doubled to right centerfield scoring Mike Allen who started the inning with a double of his own. The pair combined for five of the team’s nine hits and drove in four runs.

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