Andrew Hammond celebrates after scoring a run for the Celtics in the first inning. McNary tied West Portland 6-6 in a fall ball contest on Sunday, Oct. 18 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).
It was a thriller from start to finish, but, ultimately, McNary Youth Baseball’s (MYB) Team Lane was unable to complete the victory against West Portland on Sunday, Oct. 18.
With the score tied 6-6 in the bottom of the sixth, J.T. Walsh led off the inning with a double into the right center field gap. Walsh stole third on the following pitch, putting the winning run 90 feet away.
But due to the two-hour-and-five-minute duration limit on fall ball games, the Celtics ran out of time to score and get the win, causing the game to end in a 6-6 tie.
Even though they couldn’t secure the victory in the final frame, McNary came back from a pair of deficits in the contest to put themselves in position to win. Their effort and resiliency is commonplace according to the Celtics head coach.
“What I love about this team is that they fight hard all the time,” Celtics coach Bo Lane said. “They are always encouraging each other and lifting each other up.”
West Portland scored two runs in the top of the first without the benefit of a base hit. But the Celtics responded in a big way in the bottom half of the frame.
Cole Ricketts started the inning with a sharp single to left field. Two batters later, Walsh followed with a single of his own. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, then Ricketts would score on an infield single from Andrew Hammond.
Walsh would later score on a wild pitch to tie the game and Hammond came home on an RBI from Ben Lane.
An RBI-walk from Jack Tavares extended McNary’s lead to 4-2. Josh Grossman came home on a wild pitch moments later to complete the Celtics scoring for the inning.
“I told them at the beginning to push hard every play and every bat. We saw them do that in the first inning. They respond under pressure,” Lane said. “One of the great things about this team is that they are resilient and they fight back.”
While McNary had some defensive miscues, the Celtics also made multiple run-saving plays throughout the ballgame.
In the top of the second, West Portland had a runner on second with nobody out. The next batter hit a sharp ground ball towards the hole. Walsh made the tough play look easy, fielding the ball cleanly while moving to his left, and fired a seed to Ben Lane at first for the out.
With great situational awareness, Lane saw that the runner on second was trying to advance on the play and, after catching the delivery from Walsh for the out at first, tossed a perfect throw to Josh Allen at third base for the rare 6-3-5 double play.
West Portland had come back to take a 6-5 lead in the top of the third and was threatening for more with two runners in scoring position.
Drew Zeller, who was patrolling center field for the Celtics, had made an error on the previous play, but the ball found him once again, only this time, Zeller made a game-saving play for McNary.
The West Portland batter hit a line-shot right at Zeller in center field. If it fell for a hit, Portland would up their lead to 8-5 with the heart of their order coming up. But Zeller made a perfect read on the ball and dove to make a sliding catch just before the ball fell to the outfield grass.
“When we can fight through those challenges and brush off the errors and come back strong, that to me is always a win, no matter what the result ends up being,” Lane said. “That’s what we preach at practice. When we make a mistake, we get up and try again.”
Mitch Wort got the start on the mound for the Celtics and was replaced by Andrew Hammond with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the third with the Celtics clinging to a 5-3 advantage.
Thanks to a pair of hits and an error, West Portland reclaimed the lead at 6-5. However, Hammond was lights out for the remainder of his outing.
Over his next three innings of work, Hammond gave up no runs on just one hit and struck out four.
“Once he gets into a groove, it’s hard to stop him. We have put him in situations like that before and he always responds. That’s why he’s the go-to-guy for that situation,” Lane said.
After surrendering their lead in the top of the third, McNary came back to tie the game in the bottom half.
Ricketts led off with an infield single and got to second on a throwing error. After stealing third, Ricketts came around to score thanks to an RBI-groundout from Zeller.
However, the Celtics failed to score in the fourth and the fifth, leaving four runners on base in the process.
With a runner on third in the sixth and the time limit approaching, Hammond tried to get Walsh home with a squeeze play, but Walsh ended up getting caught in a pickle and was unable to score.
“Regardless of a win, loss or tie, this team knows how to play the game the right way,” Lane said.