The month of June has been tough for Legion baseball but, after nearly two weeks off due to rain, Sussex East’s Post 28 baseball team started July off right by splitting an up-state doubleheader with R.C. DuPont on July 1 to improve their record to 8-4 overall.
Sussex East, like many other teams, had to shift some players around to new positions just to field a team — and to their credit, it worked.
Trevor Abbott filled in for an absent Mike Casale, while Colin Warner pitched the first game of the double-header and Zac Spece manned the other corner-infielder position in lieu of an injured Jay Marsh.
Marsh is nursing a sore meniscus in his knee and it is uncertain when he might be able to resume play. According to head coach Jodi Sweetman, Marsh is able to put pressure on his knee but has limited mobility. He was expected to see a doctor earlier this week to determine the extent of the injury.
Complications could result in further tests and possibly surgery.
Catcher D.J. Clark shifted to third in the second game, which made way for Bo Wilkinson (2-4 with two singles) behind the plate. And Warner moved back to first base, while Abbott pitched.
“Truthfully, if a young player can grasp all nine positions, then it’s going to help them in the long run,” former Post 28 player Justin Hoban said. “The more positions you can play, then it will be a lot better for you.”
“It also shows what kind of athlete you are,” Hoban continued.
Abbott made all the plays his way and, despite making an error early in the game, Clark rebounded to secure the two more putouts including the final out.
“D.J. made a great play on a topped ball,” Sweetman said. “It would’ve been a tough play for the shortstop because he was deep in the hole.”
Sussex East lost the first game of the double-dip, 5-4, and was losing 7-4 after four innings in second. But hustle, clutch hitting and smooth relief work by Spece dug them out for a 10-7 win.
Sussex East out-hit R.C. Dupont 9-4 in the first game, but two big innings (in the bottom of third and sixth) were enough to give them the edge.
“Colin pitched a pretty good game,” Sweetman said. “He got down on himself on a bit because he made two mistakes on two pitches and got elevated, but he kept us in the game the whole time.”
Warner allowed only four hits all game but none were bigger than the back-to-back RBI triples in the third inning that gave R.C. Dupont a 3-1 lead.
Sussex East would power its way to a three-run sixth inning behind a two-RBI triple by Jensen to knock in Bell and Abbott. Spece belted in a winded Jensen two pitches later to make for a 4-3 lead.
The lead was short-lived and, with two outs, R.C. DuPont scored the necessary two runs to take the lead and the game.
Sussex East’s second wind came after a great hustle play by Josh Dean in the half-frame before.
Hitting seventh, Brandon Pratta turned hard on a ball that shot off a dumbfounded Spece and, rather than watch, Dean hustled over from his shortstop position into foul territory for a scoop, throw and tag out by Bell at second base. Warner struck out two of the three final batters to close out a scoreless inning of work.
Sussex East wasn’t able to get over the hump in the first but their hard work paid off in the second and rallied to score six runs in the final two innings of play.
“Down 7-4 after five innings, I told the guys not to worry because we are just as capable of scoring,” Sweetman said.
Clark led off the fifth inning with a standup double and Bell knocked him in on a low throw from the shortstop to cut the lead to 7-5.
Bell’s hustle out of the box cut the lead on that occasion and kept his team out of a critical double play in the sixth inning.
“When you hustle, you improve your game a lot because you end up making plays,” Clark said.
Warner tied the game at seven apiece with one out on his only hit of the day, and Bell hit into a 4-6 double play ball but was able to beat the force out. Two pitches later, leftfielder Brian Scott hit a RBI single to give Sussex East an 8-7 lead.
Bell’s hustle spread to his teammates and in the next inning Wilkinson was able to leg out an infield single and would score after leadoff batter Martez Hagans delivered a RBI standup double.
Clark drove in Hagans to put the icing on the cake for a 10-7 win on a RBI single. He went 6-10 with one triple, two doubles and three singles.
Spece gave up a RBI fielder’s choice to his first batter but rallied from there to secure the next nine outs and the win.
Currently, Sussex East’s overall record stands at 8-4. That includes three forfeits from Glasgow and two from Elsemere, leaving only seven games played. They’ll play seven games from July 6 to July 13.