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American Legion powers past Astros with explosive start

Pitching by committee does the job at state tourney
Heading to Athens on Monday night for TTAB junior league state tournament play, American Legion (AL) needed some positive results early in the tourney so the players would know they could make a legitimate run at the championship.
AL ace pitcher Nathan Dixon helped his squad emerge from district play, but suffered an injury since to keep him out of the state tourney. Facing the Rust Astros, AL split the pitching load four ways and reeled off eight first-inning runs en route to a convincing 19-9 win. After a contest that lasted nearly three and a half hours, the boys from Ennis knew they could still play winning baseball.
“It was great to jump out to the lead we did, but also a little scary because you have a tendency to relax with a lead like that,” said coach Tony Wilhoite.
“I was proud to see the guys keep fighting and playing hard. I think the players now realize that we can win without Nathan. There’s still enough leadership that we’re not going to lay down.
“He’s been a big part of our team; there’s no doubt about it. We’ve got to win games pitching by committee. I need each guy to give me what he’s got; then I’ll get another arm out there.”
Each team scored in five of the seven innings, but only the Ennis team produced big frames with the eight-run first and a five-run fifth inning. AL out-hit Rust 10-5, while the Astros kicked the ball around like a soccer team with 12 of the ballgame’s 19 errors.
Leading AL hitters included Chace Durham (three singles, RBI), Andrew Brown (two singles, two RBIs) and Michael Jurik (two singles, two RBIs). The team also got offensive contributions from Dylan Macon (two-RBI double), Joseph Shaw (two-RBI single), Kyle Haskovec (RBI single), Trevor Wilhoite (RBI) and Hector Garcia (RBI).
Wilhoite (2 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 5 W, HBP, 2 SO) got the start on the mound, followed by Jurik (2 IP, 1 ER, 2 H, 2 W, 1 SO), Haskovec (2 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 6 W, 1 SO) and Durham (1 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 2 W, 3 SO).
While three errors and a dropped third strike hurt the Astros in the top of the first, AL hitters were putting bat on ball at every turn. Durham just beat out the throw on an infield single to get things rolling as Haskovec (RBI single to left), Brown (two-RBI single to left), Shaw (two-RBI single to right), Durham (single to left) and Jurik (two-RBI single to left-center) all joined the fun for an 8-0 advantage.
“We hit the ball hard like we did in district; they just fell a little more tonight,” Wilhoite said.
“We’ve really hit the ball well over the last three games. Chace had quite a game tonight and stepped up. He really came through at the plate when I moved him up to the two-hole.”
Rust only got two of those runs back in its first off Wilhoite via an RBI triple and a run across on a wild pitch. He struck out the first batter while second baseman Macon and shortstop Jurik made plays with the leather.
Shaw stepped to the plate with two runners in scoring position during the AL second as an error committed on his ground ball plated them both. A Durham RBI single that fell on the right side made it 11-2 Ennis. Though the Astros got one back in the bottom of the inning with two singles and a passed ball, Wilhoite scooped up a bunt on the run and tagged a runner just a few feet from home while catcher Durham threw out a baserunner with the help of Macon.
“Trevor gave us two good innings and hopefully he can do it again Wednesday,” the AL coach said.
“To scoop that ball up on the run like he did and make the tag was a big play for us. The job Chace does behind the plate is outstanding.
“He works well with our pitchers and knows how to run a game. You don’t get any cheap bases off him and he’s a weapon back there.”
The third inning saw the Astros pull within 11-6 as Wilhoite got into some walk trouble before Jurik took over.
Now at shortstop, Wilhoite promptly turned a double play during an RBI groundout while center fielder Brown snared a hard liner to get off the field.
“Trevor has a good glove and I count on him a lot defensively,” the AL coach said.
“He made some very good plays at shortstop, including the double play.”
Brown reached base on an error to begin the fourth, and then Garcia brought him in with an RBI grounder (safe on error). Though the Astros made it a 12-8 game with no outs in the bottom of the fourth, AL recovered nicely. Jurik caught a popup on the hill, struck a batter out and Wilhoite followed with a great charging scoop and fire to end the threat.
With the game’s result in doubt for the first time, the blue team answered the bell in its fifth. Jurik singled to left; then Macon smacked a big two-RBI double to right field. Haskovec scored on a passed ball, Macon came home on a throwing error and Brown crossed the plate on a wild pitch before Rust could recover for a 17-8 contest.
“Michael was relaxed tonight and he’s a guy with a good bat and a good glove who can also give us some innings on the mound,” Wilhoite said.
“It was a good all-around game for him. Dylan’s hit was huge because it gave us a little breathing room once again and got some excitement back in the dugout. He’s a great kid that’s been with me a long time.”
Despite some walks getting new pitcher Haskovec into trouble during the Astros’ fifth, he rose up with a bases-loaded strikeout and then Wilhoite hauled in a fly to keep Rust at bay. Rust got one more run in its sixth, but Durham continued his outstanding game. After throwing out his second runner – this time with Macon making the tag at third, Durham chased down a passed ball and got it to Haskovec just in time for an inning-ending play at the plate.
Brown singled in the seventh and scored on an error; then Wilhoite finalized the score with an RBI grounder (safe on error). In a closer role, Durham struck out three in the Rust seventh – including two with the bases loaded – to move AL into the winners’ bracket.
“Andrew has been big for us in tournament play,” Wilhoite said.
“He’s playing on a bad leg, which is all the more impressive that he’s still producing without his usual great speed. Chace has a good arm to close games on the mound and he shut the door for us.”
AL will hit the field once again on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. in search of its second state-tourney victory, this time at Coleman Park in Athens.
“We’ve got to clean up the errors on some plays we’d normally make because you can’t afford those mistakes at state without Nathan on the mound,” Wilhoite said.
“We’ve also got to cut down on the walks against good ballclubs.”

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Posted by on Jul 29 2008. Filed under Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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