Heading down the final stretch into the American Legion baseball state tournament, Sussex East (16-9) split a double-header with the league-leading Steever’s Post 8 (23-4) on July 24.
Sussex East first-game starting pitcher Colin Warner pitched five strong innings before handing a 3-2 lead to relief pitcher Cody Jensen, who secured the final six outs despite facing a two-out, full-count, bases-loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh.
Jensen worked a quiet sixth inning despite giving up a two-out double down the third-base line to Danny Milam before striking out Steve Peet to end the inning.
Steever’s Nick Beam then blasted a one-out single up the middle, which was followed by a four-pitch walk to Tyler Townsend and Shaun Tappan loaded the bases on a full-count walk before Jensen struck out Billy Cunningham to end the game.
Sussex East tagged Steever’s starting pitcher Tappan for an RBI single by Zac Spece in the third inning, an RBI double by Martez Hagains in the fourth and Brian Scott belted in Hagans on a RBI single.
Steever’s rallied in the second game and went on to win 11-1 in a mercy rule in the bottom of the sixth.
With pitching at a premium in the state tournament, Sussex East head coach Jody Sweetman needed starting pitcher Trevor Abbott to eat some innings and allow his bullpen some rest.
Steever’s scattered 11 hits, five walks and scored seven runs over Abbott’s five full innings of work, before making way for reliever C.J. Bell.
“We told Trevor to go out, relax, have fun and to pitch as many innings as possible because we’re definitely going to need our pitching in the state tournament,” Sweetman said.
Bell inherited a no-outs, bases-loaded situation and, unable to fight the up-hill battle, gave up the final five runs on four hits and one walk in the loss.
Sussex East currently has two makeup games against Milford and the defending champions Sussex West before the tournament begins at Shutte Park in Dover on July 29. It ends on Aug. 2.
State tournament games are extended from seven to nine innings, with double elimination knocking teams out.