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Orioles top Astros, move to title game

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Ayden Arnold of the Orioles stands on first base after driving in two runs against the Astros in the bottom of the second inning of Monday evening’s semifinals of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament. Arnold’s hit gave the Orioles the lead for good and they held on to beat the Astros 13-9.
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Kiptyn Boatright (20) of the Orioles gets ready to swing the bat for another hit in front of Astros catcher Gabriel Boyle (right) during the semifinals of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament. The Orioles won 13-9.
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Gavin Christine of the Astros stands on second base after singling to start a rally in the top of the sixth inning of Monday evening’s semifinal game of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament. The Astros rallied with five runs in the frame and had the tying run at the plate, but fell to the Orioles 13-9.
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Despite how it might look in this photo, the Orioles’ Christopher Hamilton (right) is safe on this stolen base attempt as the ball popped out of the glove of the Astros’ Aiden Richards (27) during the bottom of the fourth inning of Monday evening’s Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament. The Orioles won 13-9.
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Shalynn Groce of the Orioles gets into position to move to third base after hitting an infield single and moving to second on a wild pitch during the second inning of Monday’s semifinal of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament against the Astros. Groce also recorded a save, striking out the final batter with the bases loaded as the Orioles won 13-9.
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Brody Burke of the Astros takes a pitch for a RBI walk in the top of the first inning of Monday’s semifinal of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament against the Orioles. The Astros took an early 3-0 lead, but the Orioles came back to win 13-9.
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Jaxson Grubbs of the Orioles gets ready to fire a pitch against as Astros batter during Monday’s semifinal game of the Minor League Player Pitch City Tournament. Grubbs hurled 4.1 innings and struck out nine batters in the Orioles’ 13-9 win.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

The NC Glass & Mirror Orioles won the New Castle Minor League Player Pitch regular season championship with a 13-2 record, but all that guaranteed them was the No. 1 seed in the postseason city tournament plus a bye in the first round, and nothing more.

Monday evening on the lower Little League diamond, the Orioles faced the Big Bounce Astros, who were not going to go down without a fight in one of two semifinal games.

The contest went the full distance, and the Orioles held on for a 13-9 victory to move on to Friday evening’s city tournament championship game against the Koontz Insurance Tigers.

“We won the regular season championship and we want to win the tournament, too,” Orioles Manager Mark Boatright Jr. said after the game. “We’ve played well all season but were a bit short on arms tonight. Jaxson (Grubbs) came in and did a really good job on the mound for us, and we scored enough runs to get the job done.”

The Astros batted first against Orioles starting pitcher Kiptyn Boatright, who had a few control issues in the top of the first inning as the Astros plated three runs without the benefit of a single hit.

After striking out the first batter, Boatright walked Steven Rangel before fanning the next batter for the second out. Boatright then walked, in succession, Aiden Richards, Bryce Bloom, and Brody Burke, forcing Rangel across the plate with the game’s first run.

Boatright then plunked Gavin Christine with a pitch, bringing Richards home, and then walked Gavyn Daniels which plated Bloom for a 3-0 Astros advantage.

With the sacks still loaded, Boatright recorded his third strikeout of the inning to get out of the jam.

Richards started on the mound for the Astros, and he also was somewhat generous in return, as the Orioles scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the first.

After striking out the first Orioles batter, Richards walked Boatright, Jaxson Grubbs reached on a fielding error, and Ayden Arnold walked on five pitches to fill the bags.

Jonathon Martin walked on five pitches to force Boatright across the plate, and then Jett Neal also walked on five pitches to drive in Grubbs and trim the Astro lead to 3-2.

Richards then struck out the next two batters to retire the side, and the Orioles also left the bases loaded.

In the top of the second inning, Boatright fanned the first batter he faces, but then walked Jacob Burris on five pitches and Grubbs came to the mound to replace Boatright.

Grubbs struck out the first batter he faced, but Boyle reached on an infield hit with Burris advancing to third base. Grubbs then fanned the next batter swinging after three pitches, and the Astros left runners on the corners.

The Orioles grabbed the lead for good in the last of the second. leading off, Zadyn Hamilton walked on five pitches before the next batter struck out. Shalynn Groce beat out an infield hit, and both Hamilton and Groce moved up a base on a wild pitch. Richards hit Boatright with a 3-2 pitch to fill the sacks.

Boatright was forced out at second base on Grubbs’ fielder’s-choice grounder, but Hamilton scored on the play to tie the game and Grubbs took second on the throw-in. Arnold stepped to the plate and lined a single to right field that plated Groce and Grubbs to give the Orioles a 5-3 advantage.

Richards induced the next batter to fly out to left field to end the inning.

Not much happened in the third inning. Grubbs retired the Astros in order in the top of the frame, the first two via strikeout. Jett Neal walked to lead off the bottom of the third and got to third base on a couple of wild pitches, but Richards fanned the next three hitters leaving Neal standing at third.

The Astros crept a run closer in the top of the fourth without benefit of a hit. Leading off, Daniels got plunked by a Grubbs pitch and advanced to second and third on wild pitches. Terry Groce walked on four pitches, putting runners on the corners with nobody out.

Daniels scored on Bryce Duncan’s RBI groundout to pull the Astros to within 5-4 and Groce moved to second base. Grubbs fanned the next two batters to get out of the inning.

Burris came in to pitch for the Astros in the bottom of the fourth inning. Christopher Hamilton led off by blooping a single into the infield that no Astro fielder reached. Hamilton stole second base, took third on a wild pitch, and Shalynn Groce walked on five pitches.

Hamilton scored on Boatright’s single to right field, and both Groce and Boatright motored around the bases to also score on the play after a pair of Astro errors. Grubbs got an infield single, moved to second and third on wild pitches, and scored on Arnold’s single to centerfield. Arnold took second base on the throw-in.

Arnold moved to third base on a wild pitch before the next batter whiffed for the first out in the inning. Arnold scored the fifth run of the inning on Jett Neal’s fielder’s choice grounder on which he was safe, so the Orioles had a 10-4 lead after scoring the maximum number of runs allowed (five) in the fourth inning.

Grubbs retired the Astros 1-2-3 in the top of the fifth inning, the latter two on strikeouts.

Aiden Antle led off the bottom of the fifth for the Orioles by reaching base on an infield hit and scored after a pair of throwing errors. Konner Neal and Zadyn Hamilton drew five-pitch walks and Bloom came in to pitch for the Astros.

All hands were safe on Christopher Hamilton’s fielder’s-choice grounder, and the bases were loaded. The next batter fanned after a called strike on a 3-2 pitch, but Boatright lined a single into centerfield to drive in both Konner Neal and Zadyn Hamilton to boost the Orioles’ lead to 13-4, and Christopher Hamilton moved to third base on the play.

The Orioles needed just one run to close out the game early, but didn’t get it. Grubbs flew out to right field and Christopher Hamilton was tagged out at home plate trying to score after the fly-ball out for an inning-ending double play.

Grubbs recorded his ninth strikeout of the game against the Astros’ lead-off batter in the top of the sixth inning, but had thrown 64 pitches and was replaced on the mound by Jett Neal, and the Astros started a rally against Neal.

Christine singled to right field on a 2-0 pitch and stole second base. Daniels got bopped by a Neal pitch, and both Christine and Daniels moved into scoring position on a wild pitch. Terry Groce walked after five pitches to load the bags.

Duncan’s single to short centerfield drove in Christine to make the score 13-5. The next batter fanned for the second out. But, in succession, Rangel walked on four pitches, Boyle reached base on an error, Richards walked on four pitches, and Bloom walked on four pitches.

In order, Daniels, Groce, Duncan, and Rangel scored to trim the Oriole lead to 13-9, the bases remained loaded, and the tying run was coming to the plate.

Shalynn Groce came in to pitch for the Orioles with the sacks juiced and fanned the next batter on a called third strike to end the game, which took exactly two hours to complete.

“With the lead we had, we let a player throw who hadn’t been on the mound much this season,” Manager Boatright added. “Shalynn did a good job coming into a tight spot to record the final out. We have four days until the championship, so we’ll be in good shape pitching-wise for that game.”