(Brent Shipman/Standard Democrat)
Despite collecting just one hit the entire contest, the 19U Squirrels were able to rely on a little small ball to push runs across in both the fifth and sixth innings to secure a 2-1 win during their final game of pool play at the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament in Charleston, Mo.
"Our guys were battling the entire time," Charleston 19U head coach Ian Householder said. "I knew as soon as we got a couple times through the order we were going to start seeing a little better. We didn't get great swings, but they were focused swings. We didn't lose any kind of guile out there.
(Brent Shipman/Standard Democrat)
Both pitchers kept the opposing lineup locked down most the afternoon, carrying duel no-hitters into the bottom of the fifth inning.
Charleston 17U hurler Breven Yarbro got in a jam to start the home half of the fifth by hitting a batter and walking another. A bunt pushed the runners over to second and third with one out.
After Yarbro recorded a strikeout for the second out, his counterpart, Nathan Vicenzi, broke up the duel no-hitters with a ground ball just out of the shortstop's reach to plate the first run of the game.
Charleston AA returned the favor in the top of the sixth, ending Vicenzi's no-hit bid with a Kade Sullivan single to put runners at first and second with one out.
A double from Yarbro tied the game, 1-1, but Charleston AA left the bases loaded without any further damage.
In such a defensive-minded game the winning run came, appropriately enough, without Charleston AAA collecting a hit to score it.
Weston Comstock drew a walk to kick off the bottom of the sixth before stealing second base. A fly ball to centerfield allowed Comstock to move over to third while turning over the lineup to leadoff hitter Jacob Keene.
Keene, a lefty, placed a bunt down the first base line that allowed Comstock to easily beat a play at the plate, putting his team on top 2-1.
"We have three or four guys in our starting lineup that I'm 100 percent confident will get a bunt down anytime I call it," Householder said. "That's huge that we can kind of spread out those bunters in the lineup. That's been our strategy in the tournament so far. We took the lead on the same kind of situation our last game.
"I have complete faith in those guys. I asked Jacob before his at-bat when they had a mound visit what he felt comfortable with. He said, 'I'm going to get this bunt down'."
After two quicks out to start the seventh, Charleston AA looked ready to rally when a walk and a single was followed by a hit batter to load the bases.
Before any damage could be done, however, relief pitcher Brian Sylvester got a fly ball to right-centerfield to end the game.
Coming up empty-handed after loading the bases in the seventh capped a game full of missed opportunities for Charleston AA.
Not only did they out-hit Charleston AAA 3-1, they loaded the bases on three separate occasions while only producing one run total.
Their first chance came when a pair of walks and an error filled the bases with no outs in the third. A strikeout and double play let Vicenzi come away unscathed.
In the sixth, after scoring the tying run, Charleston AA again loaded the bases, this time with one out.
A force out at home was followed Vicenzi's final strikeout of the game to keep Charleston AA from ever taking a lead.
By the end of the game Charleston AA stranded 11 total base runners compared to 19U's 2.
"We didn't execute like we usually do," Charleston AA head coach Marty Young said. "They out-executed us. You have to have contact in certain situations to move runner up. We just didn't get the clutch hits enough today."
Vincenzi picked up the win in a six-inning effort where he gave up three hits, walked five and struck out four. Sylvester pitched the entire seventh to earn the save.
"Nathan stepped up big time today," Householder said. "He was incredible, everything we could have asked him to be and more. I didn't think he'd be able to go as far as he did in this heat, to be honest with you. He's been one of our better guys every time he's went out there. He just hadn't got the defense he got today."
For Charleston AA (14-12), Yarbro took the hard-luck loss after a dominant complete-game effort. Yarbro retired the first 11 batters he faced, eight on strikeouts. He ended the game giving up just the one hit and three free passes.
Yarbro struck out 11 total, fanning the side in two separate innings.
"Breven has a bright future ahead of him," Young said. "He'll be a junior at Chaffee. He's a tremendous young man. Very coachable, not to mention athletic on the hill. He has three pitches around the zone at any given time. He threw his heart out. I wish we could have run-supported him a little better."
With the win, Charleston AAA (9-16) grabbe one of the final of two spots in Pool B for Saturday's single-elimination bracket-play.
They'll play the Charleston Fighting Squirrels at 11 a.m. Saturday. The winner of that game will move on to the championship game later that day at 7:30 p.m.
Charleston AA 000 001 0 - 1 3 1
Charleston AAA 000 011 x - 2 1 2
WP -- Nathan Vicenzi. LP -- Breven Yarbro. SV -- Brian Sylvester. 2B -- Breven Yarbro (AA).