Talbot rolls Elkton in state opener
Ledford picks up the ‘W’ vs. familiar tournament foe
Special to the Whig
— In recent years, the Talbot and Elkton senior league baseball teams have battled one another frequently in the state playoffs.
Much of it has gone Elkton’s way, the team having lost to Talbot in the early rounds in 2010 and 2015, only to win out thereafter, and take the state crown. Talbot had to get by Elkton in the 2011 state tournament in Waldorf, en route to becoming the state’s first-ever Senior League World Series participant.
Saturday at Jaycee Park, Talbot, this year’s District 6 champ once again, fired another strong salvo against Elkton, blowing out the defending state and District 5 champion, 11-1, in five innings.
Elkton (2-1) played an elimination game Sunday at 1 p.m. against District 1 champ Maugansville, which lost 4-1 to St. Mary’s, the District 7 champ, in Saturday’s other state tournament game.
Right-hander Mason Ledford got the win, going four innings and allowing no runs on two hits, needing just 49 pitches. Brandon Latham pitched the fifth, during which Elkton scored a single run to bust up Talbot’s try for a shutout.
“I think locating my fastball worked best for me today,” said Ledford, who struck out
two, “but also, the defense behind me, they played really well behind me, didn’t make any big mistakes.”
Talbot and Elkton both went down in order in the first, and each wasted a lone base hit in the second.
The District 6 champions took a 1-0 lead in the third, the brief rally killed by a call at the plate, one of three on the day, that caused a pause in the game.
With two outs in the home third, Ryan Farr singled, and stole second. Jimmy Halterman singled to score him, and Keegan Bentz walked. Joe Smoloski followed by slapping a base hit to left. Halterman, waved home by Talbot manager Albert Pritchett from the third base coach’s box, came in just as outfielder Jeremy Mullins fired to stop him.
District 5 catcher Austin Goudeaux snared the throw, standing perhaps a single step up the third base line from the dish, blocking it. Halterman, in mid-air as he began to slide in a homeplate circle partly occupied by the Elkton catcher, was tagged out on the play, ending the inning.
“I thought he had made a good slide,” Pritchett said. “But, they read the letter of the rule; you have to either slide or have to avoid contact. They judged he didn’t slide early enough, or well enough, to avoid contact. they heard my side of it, and they didn’t agree.
“There was no question that Jimmy was out, but Jimmy slid, in my opinion,” Pritchett added. “It hurts
to be without a starting infielder, but ... I think we can survive that. This team has a lot of pieces. We had two guys out today; one (center fielder Luke Cummings) was on vacation (in North Carolina), and another, Brandon Booze, was at a football camp out of state. Tomorrow, we’ll have everyone else back.”
Halterman, whose abbreviated slide ended in a collision with Goudeaux, one cleat hitting the Elkton catcher in his chest protector, was also ejected on the play, causing another dispute. Once the dust settled and the debating was over, however, Halterman remained out, on the play as well as of the game, and the score remained 1-0, Talbot.
Elkton’s Colin Harkey, who took the loss on the mound, singled to lead off the top of the fourth. When Ethan Wolfe, next up, flew out to center, Harkey grabbed second on an ill-advised Talbot throw to first which sailed out of play.
The error paid Elkton no dividends, though, as Talbot’s Ryan Farr, playing center field, hauled in the next batted ball as well, a Mullins fly ball — and doubled Harkey off second in an 8-6 play to end the inning.
Talbot erupted with its biggest offensive outburst of the day in the bottom of the fourth.
Jaden Cassell and Logan Baillif began it with walks; Ledford singled up the middle to load the bases.
Elkton, which had just finished winning the District 5 tournament with an extrainning victory late Friday night, went to its bullpen, lefty Zach Worton getting the nod.
“It was a late night for us last night,” said Elkton manager Bill Lorman. “We’ve got more arms than we used today, but with some of them pitching last night — we were down 8-0, and came back and won 9-8 in... extra innings on a suicide-squeeze bunt — we couldn’t throw everybody we normally might have thrown. ... We were supposed to begin our [district] tournament Tuesday, but we got rained out, and so we started it Thursday, and it got cut short. But we just went with it, and we managed to win, and make it back to states.”
Alek Reidel greeted Worton by slapping the first strike he threw to left field for a single, scoring Cassell to make it 2-0. Jacob Book, hit by a pitch, drove in Baillif to make it 3-0, and Ryan Farr came up next, hitting a high fly ball to right field.
It was a shallow shot, and Elkton’s Wolfe ran in on it, grabbing it for the inning’s first out. He fired home to deter Ledford, but the toss was too high, and hit the backstop, a few steps up the third base line. Ledford scored on the play, while Reidel went to third and Book took second.
Sam Weisman, hitting in Halterman’s spot, came up next, and blasted a high shot deep to left field.
“Honestly, I thought it was just a high pop-up at first,” Weisman said. “But it kept carrying, going, and next thing you know, it’s gone.”
The three-run homer, over the 12-foot left field fence, capped the inning, and made it 7-0.
Elkton got on the board in a top half of the fifth which saw two more disputed calls.
The first came when speedy designated hitter Jelani Brown, starting things off, hit a chopper to the right side, and Weisman, at first, went after it. Latham, a bit late to break toward the bag on the ball, got to first at around the same time as Brown. Weisman, who didn’t handle the ball cleanly at first, flipped to his pitcher, but Brown was called safe on the bangbang play.
Pritchett again argued the call, but Brown stayed at first after the discussion, safe on a tie going to the baserunner.
Bruce Lucey’s ground ball to Baillif at third was good for the first out, and moved Brown to second base. Weisman, trying to throw behind Brown right after the out, tossed it wide of second base, though, and Brown moved up one more base on the error.
Andrew Goudeaux — Austin’s twin, and older than his brother by 45 minutes — singled to score Brown, making it 7-1. John Kilvin’s base hit kept the inning going. Austin Goudeaxu lined out hard to right field, the ball sailing too low and quickly for runners to have a chance to tag.
The game’s longest interruption came during the next at-bat, by Kyle Spencer. With a 1-2 count, Latham threw a curve ball on the outside corner, which Spencer waved at and missed, and Talbot catcher John Duty caught.
The home plate umpire made an “out” signal with his right hand, and Talbot began to come off the field, believing the third out being recorded. But no verbal out call was made.
Duty rose from his crouch, and looked ready to toss the ball to the mound, as is custom when an inning ends. But he held the ball, no one left the field, and Spencer, rather than heading to the dugout, slowly trotted toward first.
No throw came. Spencer reached safely, and both runners, already in motion on the pitch, moved up as well. After a moment, play was stopped for the second time in the inning as Pritchett asked for a timeout, and conferred with umpires again, this time over the third-strike call.
“I caught it,” Duty said of the pitch. “It didn’t hit the ground. If it had, I’d’ve thrown it to first like I always do in that case.”
By rule, if a batter swings at strike-three but the ball hits the ground, the batter is allowed to try to run to first if the base is unoccupied. A 14-minute stoppage ensued, culminating in a call of a dropped third strike, and Spencer being ruled safe at first on what was ruled a passed ball. The play loaded the bases, Elkton staying alive with two outs.
Latham, however, got the next hitter, Harkey, to ground up the middle, forcing Spencer out at second to end the inning.
“You never know what to expect in these tourna- ments,” Pritchett said of the state event, which almost got moved to July 16 because District 5’s tournament was only partly complete as of Thursday. “We don’t usually know the opponents or the setup. But ... for the first game Mason threw very well. And really Brandon threw fairly well, though the one inning he pitched, it was kind of choppy for him to deal with, though, because we continued discussing things.
“On the swing, the initial call, I thought, was a [third strike], and out catcher cauht the ball. But then I think they [umpires] thought maybe our catcher didn’t catch it cleanly, and [the batter] ran. ... We probably could’ve thrown the ball to first, at that point, but we didn’t. That was the response that could’ve put it to rest right away.
“After discussing it, and after a phone call, the call... was changed,” Pritchett added. “But I don’t think it impacted the game a whole, though. ... Brandon did a nice job and put it behind him, then got the out.”
Talbot iced things with a four-run fifth.
Cassell started the decisive rally when he reached on an error; Baillif lofted a 1-0 fastball from Elkton reliever Andrew Lorman over the left field fence to make it 9-0. Reidel singled with one out, and two batters later, so did Farr.
As Weisman, up next, batted, Farr stole second, putting the game-ending 11th run in scoring position. Weisman’s at-bat ended with a walk, the fourth ball skipping to the fence for a passed ball which brought Reidel home. Bentz walked to load the bases, and Smoloski then hit a long fly ball to left. At the fence, it fell in for a game-ending single, as Farr came home to solidify the rout-rule, 11-1 win.
“We’ve got some pitchers. I don’t think that’s what cost us today. I think we’re much better than the score indicated today,” Lorman said. “Talbot had a better game than we did definitely. They’re a good team, but normal game, I don’t think they’re a 10-runbetter team than us. ... It’s deja vu all over again for us, though. We lost to them first game last year, and then won the next few and took states. We just have to do that again.”
“Losing the first game’s hard,” Lorman added. “But we’ll come back tomorrow and see what we can do. We’ve got a good team, and we lost a game early in last year’s tournament (in Maugansville), and we ran the table, and won the state tournament. So anything’s possible.”
“If you win the first game in double elimination is key, if you lose the first game it’s a grind,” Pritchett said. “I’m glad to get that first win. I know Elkton won out last year, though, so we may see them again.”
“I think it’s big for us,” Weisman added. “But now, we’ve got Berlin tomorrow. And I think that’s going to be our toughest game so far.”
Baillif agreed. “Getting the first win’s huge,” he said. “Now we’ve got to come out and see if we can do it again.”
Saturday’s game was moved up from 4 p.m. to 1 p.m., as a result of two districts, 2 and 3, not sending teams, causing the seventeam double-elimination bracket to be redrawn to accommodate five by District 8 officials.
Elkton defeated Maugansville 6-4 in Sunday’s elimination game. Look for story online and in Wednesday’s Cecil Whig.
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