Following an opening-round 4-2 loss to Georgetown in the Major League Little League All-Star tournament, Lower Sussex head coach Greg Moffitt admitted that his team wasn’t loose enough to win the game.
Fortunately, Lower Sussex’s road didn’t end there but instead led them into the loser’s bracket, where their bats came alive, racking up 39 runs in three straight wins against Millsboro, Lewes and Laurel.
Lower Sussex mustered only five hits in their opening-round loss to Georgetown, but they would get a chance at redemption on July 18 and they made the best of it.
Heading into the bottom half of the third inning, down 5-2, Moffitt encouraged his players to keep their hopes alive and reassured them that there was still plenty of baseball left to be played.
Lower Sussex loaded the bases five times with one out and rallied to score seven runs in the bottom of the third inning before going on to defeat Georgetown 13-5 for their fourth straight win.
“They really battled,” Moffitt said. “This is the first game that they’ve really had to battle back. It’s easy to play hard when you’re ahead, but I told them before our big inning that they’ve got to believe. You have to know that you’re going to do it.”
Lower Sussex catcher B.J. Kraushaar plated third baseman Steve Castro on a one-out, full-count, bases-loaded walk to cut the lead to 5-3 and they kept the pressure on from there.
Georgetown tried to squelch Lower Sussex’s rally by replacing starting pitcher Chris Conaway with Butch Booth but that wouldn’t work out.
Booth gave up all seven runs, six of which came on first-pitch swings.
Matt Dolby jumped on Booth right out the gate for a two-RBI single that cut the lead to 5-4.
Centerfielder Max Wilkinson loaded the bases again on four straight pitches, which set up their red-hot hitting second baseman Nick Moffitt for another bases-loaded situation.
Moffitt fouled two straight pitches down each of the base lines and fouled a third out of play before smashing a RBI single up the middle to tie the game at five apiece.
Moffitt thus far is 15-17 for the tournament and went 3-4 against Georgetown with two doubles and three RBI’s.
Shortstop Tyler Dean followed suit and blooped the go-ahead RBI single into right field for a 6-5 Lower Sussex lead on a first-pitch swing.
Lower Sussex had batted around and, though Castro popped out to right field for the second out, it seemed clear that Moffitt’s Major Leaguers’ hot hitting was contagious because right fielder Aaron Bennett tattooed another first-pitch into right centerfield for a bases-clearing three-RBI triple to extend the lead to 9-5.
“Once some gets a good hit it makes us want to keep going,” Nick Moffitt said.
“If we can keep hitting the ball and playing good defense then we can definitely make it (to the championship),” he continued.
Wilkinson added a RBI triple and Moffitt scored him on a RBI double in the bottom of the fourth. First baseman Mike Casale scored two more runners on a fielding error by the second baseman.
Starting pitcher Brian Bacon went the distance and, despite giving up seven hits — including a leadoff solo homerun in the first inning — settled down behind his defense for the win.
Lower Sussex’ infielders committed two of its three errors with two outs though three innings, which allowed Georgetown to score two of their five runs. But they would finish stronger than they started.
They worked a silent 1-2-3 fifth inning and ended the fourth and sixth innings on a 5-3 and 6-3 double play. (The team turned three double plays in the game.)
“Our defense has been playing really solid,” Greg Moffitt said. “We have three really good shortstops scattered around the infield and they’re playing all-around. Tyler Dean made a couple of nice backhanders deep in the hole yesterday. Castro played a great game at third and also pitches for us, and Brian Bacon is a good, if not the best shortstop we have."