Landon Gerig threw three scoreless innings for the Celtics against Cherry City (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
It may have only been a scrimmage, but the game was played with the intensity of a state tournament contest.
The McNary Youth Baseball (MYB) Senior American squad played to an 8-8 tie with the Cherry City 14U team on Thursday, July 16.
It was the first time many of these kids had played in a game since last summer, and the level of play greatly pleased Celtics coach Ryan Walsh.
“It was good baseball for it being our first time out. Overall, I thought we played really well. It was nice to see our kids compete with kids at the club level,” Walsh said.
Landon Gerig got the start on the mound for the Celtics and didn’t give up a run in his three innings of work.
After retiring the first two batters in the top of the first, Gerig issued a pair of free passes. But he came back to strike out the next hitter he faced after falling behind 3-0 in the count.
Gerig only gave up one hit in while striking out five in his outing.
“Landon gave us the exact start that we needed. He had a great outing,” Walsh said. “Landon is consistent. We always know what we’re going to get out of him.”
McNary was held scoreless in the first two frames, but drew first blood in the bottom of the third.
With one out in the inning, Celtics leadoff hitter Ethan Ortiz reached on a fielding error and advanced to second on a poor throw. Ortiz moved to third on a passed ball and eventually scored on a RBI-groundout to short by Kellen Ursprung.
Cherry City, however, responded with three runs in the top of the fourth thanks to a trio of errors and an RBI-single.
Already with three runs in the frame, Cherry City was in a position to break the game open with the bases loaded. But J.T Walsh, who replaced Gerig on the mound, was able to get out of trouble and ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.
The Celtics took advantage of the momentum boost by scoring three runs of their own in the bottom half of the fourth.
Josh Allen and Mitch Wort each drew walks and advanced to second and third after a wild pitch. Ortiz then came through with a two-out single to score Allen from third. Ursprung followed with a two-run single, moments later, to give the Celtics the lead back at 4-3.
“My biggest philosophy at this level is to be aggressive at the plate. Our guys did that, and that helped us fight back when we were down,” Walsh said.
Andrew Hammond came in as a reliever in the top of the fifth inning. With two outs in the frame, Cherry City scored on an error and a two-run single to take a 6-4 lead. It appeared they would build on the lead after another single, but Allen, the left fielder, threw a frozen rope to catcher Andrew Zeller to nail the base-runner at the plate, trying to score from second, to end the inning.
Just like they did in the previous inning, the McNary bats got them back in the game in the bottom of the fifth.
Evan Lawson began the frame with a double to the gap in left center field, which was followed by an infield single from J.T. Walsh, who moved to second on a wild pitch.
Hammond reached on another infield single, and the throw to first got away from the first baseman, allowing two runs to score. Hammond came around to touch home later in the inning to allow McNary to regain the 7-6 advantage.
Hammond got the job done on the mound as well in the following frame, getting out of a bases-loaded jam by forcing a groundout to end the top of the sixth.
“He came through when we needed him to. Andrew threw hard and he threw strikes,” Walsh said.
In the bottom of sixth, Ortiz got things going with a single up the middle. Ursprung then reached on a two-base error by the right fielder, giving the Celtics runners on second and third with nobody out.
Ortiz scored on a sacrifice fly from Lawson later in the frame to extend the Celtics lead to 8-6.
However, McNary’s lead would dissipate in the top of the seventh as Cherry City came back to tie the score at 8-8. McNary had a chance for a walkoff victory in the bottom half with two runners in scoring position, but failed to bring either of them home.
“We played with good effort and had some really good swings later in the game. I liked that we were able to capitalize on certain situations and just keep fighting and scrapping,” Walsh said.