Wolverines fall in baseball playoff openerPublished 12:19pm Monday, May 13, 2013
Players hugged each other; players and their parents hugged each other.
Little else punctuated the post-game silence, while a remnant of resolute fans watched quietly as Polk County’s varsity baseball absorbed a 10-0 first-round playoff loss to visiting Bunker Hill.
The Wolverines’ character can be measured in the close bonds among players, and by the strong effort they made against a tough Bunker Hill team.
“We didn’t play a bad game,” said Polk Coach Ty Stott. “We got outplayed.”
Polk mustered but one hit, though, as Stott remarked, “Their line drives found a hole; our’s found gloves.”
A single by J.C. Suddeth in the home second was Polk’s only safety.
Daniel Painter got the starting assignment, and pitched well, with a number of batters swinging slightly late on his fastball. It was Painter’s fate to be matched against Bunker Hill’s Coleman Chapman, whose code the Wolverine hitters couldn’t quite crack.
Anyone arriving in the home sixth might think the game, which ended after six, via the 10-run rule, was a blowout. They’d have been wrong. As in most games, small ingredients contributed to the final result.
In the home second, and Bunker Hill ahead, 2-0, Suddeth singled with one out; raced to second on a passed ball, and stole third after a strikeout. Konner Scruggs hit a hard bouncer that, with a less athletic pitcher on the mound, might have gone through for an RBI single and a momentum shift. Instead, Chapman, leaped off the mound to his left, snagged the ball, and tossed Scruggs out to end the inning.
Before the game, Stott noted that his players capitalize on other teams’ mistakes. That seemed to be happening in the home third. Jordan Brown led off with a grounder to short that rolled through the fielder’s legs, into left, for an error. With one out, Dylan Turner walked, to put runners on first and second. Wes Brady was out on a soft grounder to the mound, but moved the runners to second and third. Polk’s speedy catcher, Bryce Martin, socked a hard grounder to the left side of the infield, and appeared to at least tie the throw to first. However, the umpire ruled out, negating Brown’s coming home.
Painter pitched well, but was not a master of his fate. Bunker Hill’s first batter of the game was safe at first on a soft grounder to third and a high throw to first by Brady, who had to throw quickly, and might not have nailed the fast runner with any throw.
Next batter rifled a shot off Alec Philpott at short, with the runners making it to third and second, respectively. Painter got the first out on a called strike, and retired the next batter on a grounder to third and a fine throw by Brady, with the runners holding. However, the next batter stroked a drive to deep center. Dylan Turner raced back, and got the end of his glove on the ball, but couldn’t snag it, and the batter had a two-run double.
One Bunker Hill drive that didn’t need to find a hole in the playing field, was Coleman Chapman’s lead-off solo homer just over the fence in left center, that made it 3-0. Turner snared a liner to center for the first out, and Painter, in spite of yielding two baserunners, retired the side with no further scoring.
After Painter yielded a hard one-out single in the fourth, Stott brought Philpott in from short, and put him on the mound. Philpott fanned the next two batters, to end the inning.
However, Bunker Hill added three runs in the fifth, including single tallies on a sacrifice fly and a daring squeeze bunt, on which, Philpott tagged out the batter.
Bunker Hill scored five in the sixth to put the game on ice, but only after a fine play by Turner when he snared a sinking liner in right center to retire the lead-off batter. Philpott also deserved better. He gave up two singles, but struck out the next batter. He induced a slow grounder from the following batter, who reached first, loading the bases. A two-run single, followed by a two-run line double to right, made it 9-0, and brought Turner to the mound.
Polk batters fought hard in the sixth, but didn’t get their pitches and, suddenly, their fine season was over.
After the game, Stott praised both his players and the visitors.
“They (Bunker Hill) swing the bats well. They made every play . . . They took the momentum, and never gave it up. Their pitcher has a great curve. It looks like a fastball, but it drops off the table,” Stott observed, noting that his batters, indeed few batters at the high school level, see that kind of pitching. “We didn’t have a whole lot to throw up there that fooled them. I don’t have any doubt they played their ‘A’ game.”
While noting the visiting batters “used the whole field,” Stott also felt “We should have left he (top of) the first, nothing-nothing.”
Stott also observed that, in spite of the final game, “we did what we had to do (10-2) in the conference. Though Stott is losing but three players — Philpott, Turner and Brown, he described that trio as “leaders, who helped win fourteen games with probably the youngest team we’ve ever had.”
What’s next for Stott? He’s looking forward to the school’s sports banquet on May 23, and will “look at next year. That’s what I do.”