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New Castle 12U holds on to edge Hagerstown

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Dillon Smitherman of the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team rounds second base and heads for third after hitting a two-run homer against Hagerstown in the top of the fourth inning of Monday evenng’s first championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Smitherman’s shot put New Castle up 11-1 and it held on for an 11-10 win.
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Gavin Frazier of the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team is all smiles after hitting a three-run homer against Hagerstown in the top of the third inning of Monday evening’s first championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Frazier’s blast put New Castle on top 9-1, and it held on to win 11-10.
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Tatum Abrams (2) of the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team gets ready to fire a pitch toward the plate against a Hagerstown batter during Monday evening’s first championship game of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle. Abrams left the mound with an 11-2 lead after throwing 88 pitches and New Castle held on for an 11-10 victory.

By DAVID RISLEY - drisley@thecouriertimes.com

It appears no lead is safe when it comes to Little League Baseball.

Six days after blowing an early 6-0 lead in a 9-8 extra-inning loss to Hagerstown and two days after coming back from a five-run deficit in the final inning to defeat Aurora 8-7 in seven, the New Castle Little League Baseball 12U All-Star Team had an 11-1 lead over Hagerstown in the top of the fourth inning Monday night.

Hagerstown stormed back with two runs in the fourth and eight in the fifth before New Castle held on for an 11-10 victory in the championship round of the Indiana District 6 Tournament in New Castle, sending both teams into a winner-take-all championship game that followed.

This baseball game had almost everything but a balk, and had the large crowd of fans from both sides on the edge of their seats until the final out was recorded.

Hagerstown was the home team for the contest, so New Castle battled first against Hagerstown starting pitcher Gavin Walter.

Tyson Lewis led off the top of the first inning for New Castle by singling on a 2-2 pitch. Gavin Frazier followed by smacking a 2-2 Walter offering to the left field fence for a double, putting both runners in scoring position.

Landon Semler’s groundout plated Lewis with Frazier moving to third base. Isaiah Gard’s grounder was bobbled for an error and Frazier came in to score with Gard ending up on second base. Gard took third on a wild pitch before the next batter flied to centerfield for the second out.

Ethan Blackburn walked on a 3-2 pitch to put runners on the corners, and then Drew Dock stepped to the plate and lined a 2-1 pitch from Walter into the outfield for a double, driving in Gard and Blackburn for a 4-0 New Castle advantage. Walter struck out the next batter to end the inning.

Tatum Abrams was the starting pitcher for New Castle, and Hagerstown got one of those runs back against him in the bottom of the first.

Ben Williams led off with a double to the centerfield fence and moved to third base on Cole Tracy’s groundout. Williams scored on a single to center by Xavier Mathews to trim the New Castle lead to 4-1.

After another groundout, Abrams walked A.J. Shilling on five pitches, but Abrams struck out the next batter with two runners aboard to end the inning.

With two outs in the top of the second inning, Frazier singled to right field, took second on a wild pitch, and Semler walked on five pitches. But Walter bore down and struck out the next batter on four pitches, and New Castle didn’t score.

After Abrams struck out the side in order in the last of the second, New Castle worked to build a “comfortable” lead in the top of the third inning, and all of the scoring was done with two outs.

With two away, Dock doubled to the centerfield fence and Logan Tharp came in to run for him. Dillon Smitherman was walked intentionally and Robert Fox received a base on balls on a 3-2 pitch, loading the bags.

Lewis followed with a double to the centerfield fence, plating Tharp and Smitherman. Frazier then stepped in and launched Walter’s first pitch to him over the left centerfield fence for a three-run homer and 9-1 New Castle advantage.

Semler reached base on an error, but was forced out at second base to end the inning on Gard’s fielder’s choice grounder.

Hagerstown got a major threat going in the bottom of the third. Williams led off the inning by doubling down the left field line. Tracy walked on a 3-2 pitch and a passed ball moved both runners into scoring position.

Abrams fanned the next batter and the next batter flied out to centerfield, but not deep enough to score a run. With two away, Abrams plunked Will Combs with a pitch to fill the sacks, but struck out the next batter on five pitches to get out of the inning unscathed.

Walter gave up a lead-off double to the left field corner by Abrams in the top of the fourth inning and had to leave the mound after throwing 85 pitches. Tracy came in to pitch for Hagerstown and Blackburn got an infield hit, but Abrams was tagged out at third base on a a delayed attempt to get there on the play.

Blackburn moved to third on Kye Golliher’s groundout. With two away, Smitherman stepped in and belted a 2-2 Tracy pitch over the centerfield fence for a two-run homer and 11-1 New Castle lead.

Luke Reeves followed with a double to right field, but Tracy induced the next batter to ground out 6-3 to end the inning, keeping the score where it was.

It appeared New Castle was in pretty good shape to run-rule Hagerstown, as it needed only to hold Hagerstown scoreless and get three outs against the bottom of its batting order to claim victory, but the team from western Wayne County had other ideas.

Shilling led off the bottom of the fourth inning by coaxing a walk from Abrams on a 3-2 pitch, and then Gabe Childs walked on four pitches. Abrams struck out the next batter on a 3-2 pitch and then induced Williams to line to shortstop Frazier for the second out.

Needing only one out for the early win, New Castle didn’t get it as Tracy singled on a 3-1 pitch to drive in Shilling to trim the New Castle lead to 11-2. The next batter flied to right field for the third out, and the game moved to the fifth inning, where it got really interesting.

New Castle did nothing against Tracy in the top of the fifth, going down 1-2-3. In the last of the fifth, Abrams retired the first batter on a groundout, but then walked Will Combs on five pitches. Combs was forced out at second base on Walter’s fielder’s choice grounder.

With two away, what happened next was kind of unbelievable. Walter moved to second on a wild pitch. Abrams struck out Anthony Kelley on six pitches, but a dropped third strike allowed Kelley to reach first base and Walter moved to third. Abrams’ pitch count reached 88, so he had to leave the mound and Golliher came in to pitch for New Castle.

Gabe Childs doubled off the centerfield fence, Grant Childs walked on four pitches, Williams singled to centerfield, Tracy walked on five pitches, and Mathews reached first base after another dropped third strike. While all this was happening, Walter, Kelley, Gabe Childs, and Grant Childs scored to pull Hagerstown to within 11-6.

With the bases loaded, Collin Beaty stepped to the plate and blasted a 1-0 Golliher pitch over the left centerfield fence for a grand-slam home run to trim the New Castle lead to a single run at 11-10.

Robert Fox came in to pitch for New Castle and walked Combs on four pitches, and Shilling came in to run for Combs. Fox then fanned the next batter on three straight pitches to end the inning, leaving the tying run on base.

Kelley came in to pitch for Hagerstown in the top of the sixth inning, and New Castle got zilch against him, too, as two groundouts sandwiched around a line-out retired the side.

Gard came in to pitch for New Castle in the bottom of the sixth inning. Kelley led off by beating out an infield hit and reached second base after a throwing error on the play. But with the tying run in scoring position and nobody out, Gard struck out the next three Hagerstown batters to end the game exactly two hours after it started.

With both New Castle and Hagerstown having one loss (by one run to each other), a deciding game was necessary to determine the District 6 champion.