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Phares nips Sadler in battle for first place

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Clayton Hamm (7) from Phares leads off a little from the bag as Sadler third baseman Kody Smitherman (14) tries to keep him close to it during Tuesday night’s Babe Ruth League Baseball game at Denny Bolden Field. Hamm was 2-for-4 from the plate and scored two runs as Phares came from behind to defeat Sadler 8-7 in a battle of first-place teams.
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Sadler Manager Jeremy Hines (middle, standing) works on the leg of Sadler player Brock Corbett (on ground) while the umpire and another Sadler coach watch after Corbett got a severe cramp sliding into second base during Tuesday night’s Babe Ruth League Baseball game against Phares at Denny Bolden Field. Corbett was OK and pitched well in the contest, but Phares rallied to defeat Sadler 8-7 in the battle of first-place teams.
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Eli Cooper of Phares gets ready to hurl the ball toward the plate against a Sadler batter during Tuesday night’s Babe Ruth League Baseball game at Denny Bolden Field. Cooper came into the game with his team trailing and held Sadler more or less in check while striking out four batters in 2 2/3 innings of relief to pick up the win in the 8-7 Phares victory.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

Two one-loss teams battling for first place met on the diamond of New Castle Babe Ruth League Baseball’s Denny Bolden Field Tuesday night.

When the dust finally had settled at 10:30 p.m., Phares had squeezed out an 8-7 victory over Sadler Orthodontics to grab the spot atop the league standings.

“This is a tough week for us,” Sadler Manager Jeremy Hines said. “At the end of it, we will have faced three of the best pitchers in the league. We beat one last night, we were ahead of (Dylan) Beck when he left tonight, and we have another one tomorrow. We made a few minor mistakes in a couple of rundowns and with the 95-pitch count, their number two pitcher threw well while ours struggled tonight. That was the difference in the game.”

Phares improved to 5-1 while Sadler fell 0.5 games back in second place at 5-2.

“This game was a tight one that went back and forth,” Phares Manager Jim Davis said afterward. “This game was important to us because we didn’t want to lose to them twice during the regular season and this win puts us back into first place. The season isn’t over, though, and we go back to work with another game tomorrow.”

This game was the nightcap of two played on the day and began 40 minutes after its scheduled start. In the opener, VFW scored two runs in the last of the sixth inning to defeat winless Knights of Pythias 18-8 on the 10-run rule.

Brock Corbett got the start on the mound for Sadler and had little trouble against Phares in the top of the first inning. Corbett did issue a two-out walk to Dylan Beck and Beck stole second base, but didn’t score.

Beck started on the mound for Phares and immediately got into some hot water, walking Sadler lead-off batter Garrett Grim and giving up a single to centerfield by Corbett. Grim moved to third base on a fly ball to right field by Kyler Sears and scored on a throwing error with Corbett going to second base.

Corbett moved to third on a passed ball, and Beck struck out the next batter for the second out. But Jared Catron delivered a two-out single to left centerfield on a 0-2 pitch to plate Corbett for a 2-0 Sadler advantage.

Connor Bilby followed with a single to center that moved Catron to third base, but the next batter bounced into a force-out at second base to end the inning.

Corbett worked out of a bit of a jam in the top of the second inning. Clayton Hamm doubled to left field for Phares leading off and went to third base on a fielder’s choice grounder by Caleb Underhill in which all hands were safe.

Hamm scored on Trent Alfrey’s bloop single near the right field line to narrow the gap to 2-1 as Underhill took third on the play. Corbett struck out the next batter on three pitches, but Kyle Gabbard reached base on an error to load the bags.

But Eli Cooper lined out hard to the left fielder, whose throw to second base caught Alfrey off the bag for an inning-ending double play. Beck retired Sadler 1-2-3, two via strikeouts, in the bottom of the second.

Phares evened the score in the top of the third inning. Carson Smith led off with a single to left field, took second base on a wild pitch and third on a passed ball, and scored on a one-out single to left by Cadin Holland to tie the game at 2-all.

Holland moved to second base on a passed ball, but was tagged out trying to reach third to end the inning after Hamm flied out to center field.

Sadler took the lead again in the last of the third. Corbett led off with a single to centerfield and stole second base. With one away, Corbett moved to third on a wild pitch and Brandon Matney walked on four pitches and stole second base, putting both runners in scoring position.

Beck fanned the next batter on three pitches for the second out, but an error on Bilby’s grounder allowed Corbett to score, giving Sadler a 3-2 advantage. The next batter lined out to shortstop Cooper to end the inning.

Both sides were retired in order in the fourth inning.

Phares had an opportunity to tie the game or grab a lead in the top of the fifth inning. Corbett whiffed the first batter but gave up consecutive infield hits to Cooper and Smith, but Cooper was tagged out at third base trying to reach it on Smith’s safety. 

Smith moved to second on a wild pitch and Beck walked on a 3-2 pitch, but Corbett struck out the next batter leaving the two runners stranded.

“Corbett’s a gamer,” Hines explained. “We picked him up this season because he was on Knightstown’s team last year and they didn’t have a team this year. He’s very intelligent and has a high baseball IQ. He seems to instinctively know what needs to be done and where to be. Few pitchers would think to back up the third baseman when we got an out to save a run. That play was huge at the time.”

Sadler scored three runs off some Phares charity in the bottom of the fifth. Corbett led off with an infield hit and stole second base but suffered a severe cramp on the play, and action was stopped for a couple minutes to attend to him.

Corbett remained in the game and scored on a two-base error on Sears’ batted ball. Beck fanned the next batter on a 3-2 pitch, but a fly ball by Catron to deep left centerfield was dropped for another two-base error and Sears came in to score. 

Bilby walked on four pitches and Cooper came to the mound to relieve Beck. Cooper walked Kody Smitherman on a full count to load the sacks.

An error on Logan Slinker’s ground ball plated Catron for a 6-2 Sadler lead, but Bilby was tagged at the plate trying to score on the play for the second out. The next batter struck out on three pitches to end the inning. 

Corbett’s pitch count was high, so Sears came in to relieve him on the mound for Sadler in the top of the sixth inning. Phares used this opportunity to rally to take the lead.

Hamm led off the frame with a single to right field and scored on Underhill’s double to left centerfield. Underhill stole third base and consecutive walks to Alfrey and Dameon King loaded the bags with no outs.

A throwing error on Gabbard’s ground ball plated Underhill and the sacks remained filled. Cooper’s bloop hit into short right field drove in Alfrey. The next batter fanned for the first out, but a throwing error allowed King to cross the plate to tie the score at 6-6.

Beck’s infield single drove in Gabbard and Cooper scored on Holland’s groundout to give Phares an 8-6 advantage. Sears struck out the next batter to finally end the inning.

Cooper struck out the side in the bottom of the sixth. Underhill led off the top of the seventh inning with a single to left field, but was left standing there. 

Down to its final at-bat, Sadler tried to rally in the last of the seventh. Cooper walked Matney leading off the inning, but induced the next batter to foul out to the first baseman. Bilby’s single to right field moved Matney to third base.

Matney scored on Smitherman’s fielder’s choice grounder on which Bilby was out at second base to cut the Phares lead to 8-7. Cooper then retired the next batter on a grounder to end the game after an elapsed time of 2:20.

“Our pitching was good,” Davis added, “we got some hits late in the game when we needed them, and our number tow pitcher (Cooper) came in and did what we asked of him. I’m proud of our boys.”

Hines was proud of his team, too, despite the narrow loss.

“We got two double plays tonight in a seven-inning game,” Hines added, “and you don’t see that very often in Babe Ruth Baseball. We beat them once and they beat us once. We both have tough games tomorrow and I feel we’ll see them again down the road. I like where we are right now.”