Astros es­cape Rays to stay un­beaten

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By BILL GATES bgates@ches­

In a game they ul­ti­mately didn’t need to win, the Astros held off the Rays in an Eastern Bal­ti­more County Over-40 Base­ball League thriller on Sun­day, 15-14.

With the vic­tory, the Astros stayed un­beaten at 5-0 with one game re­main­ing in the reg­u­lar sea­son.

If the Dodgers (3-1) lose to the Royals (2-2) in a makeup game that was to be played on Wed­nes­day, the Astros clinch the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle and the top seed in the post­sea­son tour­na­ment.

A Dodgers’ vic­tory sets up a de facto reg­u­lar-sea­son cham­pi­onship game on Sun­day with the Astros at the Amer­i­can Le­gion Post 39 field.

Should the Dodgers win, both teams will be 5-1 and the Dodgers will have the head-to-head tiebreaker, mean­ing a first-round bye in the post­sea­son fol­lowed by a game against ei­ther the Ori­oles or Di­a­mond­backs (both cur­rently 0-4-1).

So re­gard­less of the out­come of the Astros-Rays game, the Astros would still need to beat the Dodgers for the reg­u­lar-sea­son ti­tle.

But the pos­si­bil­ity of fin­ish­ing un­beaten doesn’t come along ev­ery sea­son.

Sun­day’s game at Pat­ap­sco High ended with the score 15-14, two outs, the ty­ing run on third and the win­ning run on sec­ond.

Astros pitcher La­mar King struck out the last bat­ter to end the three-and-a-halfhour con­test.

“That’s the point in the game where you re­ally need to bear down,” King said af­ter­wards.

The Astros car­ried a 15-11 lead into the bot­tom of the ninth. Two sin­gles and an er­ror loaded the bases with no outs.

A sin­gle by Steve Kessler fol­lowed by a Rob Dolly hit made it a two-run game with the bases still loaded and no outs.

And that’s where King bore down. A strike­out, an RBI fielder’s choice and a strike­out ended the game.

It was a tough loss for the Rays, who were in con­tention for first place af­ter a 3-1 start but dropped to 3-3 with their sec­ond straight loss.

The Rays trailed 9-3 en­ter­ing the bot­tom of the fifth in­ning and 12-8 en­ter­ing the bot­tom of the sev­enth.

They sent 11 bat­ters to the plate in the bot­tom of the fifth in­ning to pull to within 9-8.

Kellen Wal­lace led off with a sin­gle, Sonny Weaver dou­bled and Erin Hickman sin­gled to drive in a run.

Dolly had an RBI sin­gle and Josh La­mont dou­bled in a run. The last run scored when Wal­lace was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

The Astros re-built their lead in the top of the sev­enth on RBI sin­gles by Joe LoBianco and King, and a Rays’ throw­ing er­ror.

The Rays came back with three runs in the bot­tom of the in­ning, and were poised to tie the game or take the lead in the bot­tom of the eighth.

But Dolly’s well-hit liner to right-cen­ter was snagged by LoBianco, who made a run­ning catch and held on with the ball stick­ing out the top of his mitt as he stum­bled and rolled over on the ground.

Still, a walk and an er­ror put run­ners on first and sec­ond with one out. But King got a strike­out and a grounder back to the mound to end the in­ning.

Had the Rays taken the lead, they likely would have won the game. The in­ning ended with seven min­utes to spare un­til noon; league rules man­date no in­ning can start af­ter noon, so the ex­tra time needed to score two runs may have caused the game to end af­ter eight in­nings.

In­stead, the game went on to the ninth, where the Astros added what turned out to be a very im­por­tant three runs.

A bases-loaded, one out dou­ble by Mike Aubele scored two runs, and Jerry Gastiger drove in a run with a ground­out.

The other two games this week­end see the Ori­oles vs. the Royals at Pat­ap­sco High, and the Di­a­mond­backs vs. the Car­di­nals (3-2) at St. He­lena Park.

The post­sea­son tour­na­ment be­gins the fol­low­ing week, with the Astros or Dodgers hav­ing a first-round bye and the Ori­oles vs. the Di­a­mond­backs in a “play-in” game.

The other two first-round games will in­volve seeds two through five.

Astros cen­ter­fielder Joe LoBianco holds onto the ball af­ter mak­ing a run­ning catch and tum­bling on the ground.


Astros third base­man Jerry Gastiger dives for a ground ball.

Rays sec­ond base­man Rob Dolly throws to first base­man Sonny Weaver for an out.

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