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Dominant Team Win for Cardinals
By Tyler Carney
The bats were hot on a perfect night for baseball in Grottoes as the Cards took down the visiting Stuarts Draft D’backs 10-3. The Cards got off to a hot start in what would turn into a dominant performance against a solid D’backs team.
“ We’ve been talking about the good starts, and Tucker threw strikes early and we played great defense behind him, that really set the tone for the game,” said Cards Manager Tim Nicely.
After a scoreless first from both sides, two ground out RBIs from Jacob Merica and Luke Tomajcyzk brought in a runner each in the bottom of the second. Starting pitcher Tucker Garrison would keep the D'Backs scoreless until the 4th where a 2 RBI double from Grayson Bush would tie the game, but that would be the closest the D’backs would get.
Grottoes would jump back ahead in the bottom of the 4th with an RBI sacrifice fly from Tomajczyk and would score another run in the bottom of the 5th as a 6-3 double play off the bat of Natty Solomon would be enough to bring in a run making the score 4-2 where it would stay through the stretch.
Bottom of the 7th the Cards would blow the game open with 4 runs scored off of 2 RBI singles from Cameron Irvine and Garrett Huffman. Right after them Clayton Michael who came in for Jacob Merica in the 6th would step up and drive a 2 RBI double into the gap. All these RBIs came with two outs in the innings, very close to a completely different game.
“We are swinging it really good right now and not all guys are right out of season and they’re swinging it well too,” said Manager Nicely.
Tucker Garrison was eventually relieved by Eli Lam who continued the shutdown defense. The two top end pitchers would finish with 13 strikeouts and only 3 runs allowed on the entire day. Also only allowing 4 hits and defensively only 1 error to the D’backs 3.
As for the D’backs, starting pitcher Jacob Grabeel would not get the loss as he was relieved in the bottom of the 5th where his relief Lance Gowans would give up the winning 4th run and unfortunately for Gowans he’d have to suffer through the bottom of the 7th until his relief Chandis Goff would come in and finish the game. Was not their day as the Cardinals strung together 19 hits in the game.
The 8th saw the last of the scoring from either side as Ryan Farris of the D’backs would hammer a triple to center and was brought in by a Jack Pausic ground out RBI. Eli Lam had seen enough though as he would strike out the following batter.
The bottom of the 8th saw two more runs batted in for the Cardinals. With Adian Miller bringing one home on an RBI single and Natty Solomon with his second RBI of the day brought in another.
The top of the 9th saw Eli Lam almost send the D’backs home in order, however a HBP and a walk gave the D’backs a glimmer of hope. However once again Lam had seen enough and struck out Calen Owens looking after a long at bat to seal the Cardinals victory.
The Cardinals move to 3-1 and will have until Sunday to rest. They’ll hope to keep the bats hot at home against the Shockers June 4th.
As for the D’backs they have a quick turnaround as they’ll face the Broadway Bruins at home tonight. They’ll hope to turn it around as they fall to 1-1.
By Dean Barker
The Clover Hill Bucks utilized a five-run sixth inning to hand the defending champion Bridgewater Reds a 8-6 loss on Monday, May 29 at Buck Bowman Park. With the win, the Bucks moved to 3-1 and second place in the RCBL, while the Reds fell to 1-1 and a tie for fifth.
“You just focus on what we do, and on playing our fundamental baseball, and not getting too high or too low on emotions,” Bucks head coach Kevin Chandler said. “At the end of the day, it’s another baseball game, and we’ve gotta execute.”
Jaden Isidro picked up the win for Clover Hill, pitching the sixth and seventh innings and giving up five runs (four earned) and three hits with no walks and four strikeouts. Reid Long pitched the first five innings and gave up one run on six hits, one walk and nine strikeouts to get the no-decision. Tyler Conley pitched a scoreless last two innings with three strikeouts, one walk and no hits in a non-save situation.
Jared Peake took the loss for Bridgewater, giving up two earned runs in an inning and a third with two hits, no walks and a strikeout. Chris Griffin pitched the first five innings, giving up two runs (one earned) on three hits with two walks and four strikeouts. Landen Campbell pitched two thirds of the sixth inning, giving up four earned runs on one hit with three walks and no strikeouts. Tyler Jones pitched a 1-2-3 eighth with a strikeout, no hits and no walks.
Luke Shifflett got the Bucks on the board first with a bases-loaded RBI groundout in the third to make the score 1-0. Lucas Clark then ripped a sharp liner which Griffin miraculously caught to end the inning.
The Reds would respond in the top of the fifth, as Noah Cornwell drove in Derek Shifflett with a single to right. The Bucks put the run back on the board in the bottom half, as José Rocha came home on a passed ball. With two on and one out in the top of the sixth, Patrick O’Niel plated one with an RBI groundout to second, and Derek Shifflett put the Reds up 3-2 with an RBI double to left.
With John Siciliano walking to start the bottom of the sixth, TJ Johnson drove him in with a double to left, and took third on a wild throw to second from the catcher. Alex Knicely walked, and ball four went into the backstop, allowing Johnson to score the go-ahead run. Rocha walked with two outs, prompting Reds head coach Robert Sherfey to pull Campbell for Peake. Kevin Navedo would drive in another with a single, and Shifflett would reach on an error, allowing another run to score. Clark’s single to left would make the score 7-3 Bucks.
With two on in the top of the seventh, Liam Simpson drove in one with a double to right, Josh Tayman added another with an RBI groundout to first, and Simpson would score on a passed ball to make the score 7-6. Kyle Carlson led off the bottom half with a double off the left field wall, and went to third and home on sacrifice flies from Johnson and Knicely to make the final score 8-6.
The Bucks had eight runs on seven hits with two errors and seven base runners stranded. The Reds scored six runs on nine hits with four errors and ten runners left on base.
“We created too many errors and gave them (Clover Hill) too many opportunities,” Sherfey said. “When they have opportunities, they’re going to capitalize on them, and we didn’t capitalize on some of ours.”
For the Reds, Shifflett was 3-4 with an RBI and a walk. Simpson was 2-4 with an RBI and a walk. Cornwell was 1-4 with an RBI and a walk. Tayman was 1-4 with an RBI. Chris Huffman was 1-4 with a walk. O’Neil added an RBI.
Navedo went 2-4 with an RBI and a walk to lead the Bucks. Johnson went 1-2 with an RBI. Clark was 1-4 with an RBI. Shifflett was 1-5 with an RBI. Eberly went 1-3. Carlson was 1-4. Knicely added an RBI.
The Bucks will be back in action on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 pm when they travel to the Elkton Blue Sox. Bridgewater will hope to bounce back at the Montezuma Braves on the same date at the same time.
Robertson Named Player of the Week
Michael Robertson has been named the Valley Care Management player of the week for the first week of the 2023 season. He batted .583, was tied for first in the league with seven hits, a home run and six RBIs, and led the league in defensive putouts with eight.
Montezuma Coach Chris Rush said that "Mike is a solid player offensively and defensively and is a true threat at the plate against most any pitcher. His speed makes him even a bigger threat when he gets on base. We are glad to have Mike back in a Montezuma uniform this year and look forward to a season of Robertson highlights."
Cardinals Hand Braves First Loss
By Dean Barker
The Grottoes Cardinals got ahead early and managed to hold off the undefeated Montezuma Braves 10-6 on the road Friday, May 26. With the win, the Cardinals improved to 2-1 while the Braves fell to 2-1.
“We got off to a better start, first couple of games we didn’t, and we got a home run early,” Cardinals head coach Tim Nicely said. “We were able to get a bit of a lead, and that was the first time we were able to do that this year, so that helped us.”
Noah Burtner picked up the win, throwing the sixth and seventh innings, giving up one unearned run on no hits with two walks and two strikeouts. Josh Nielsen took the loss for the Braves, allowing seven earned runs to score on eight hits with one strikeout and two walks.
Cameron Irvine got it all started in the second with a solo shot to center field to put Grottoes up 1-0. The Braves would respond in the bottom of the fourth, as Tyler Smith would single, and scored on a two out error on a grounder from Luke Olimpio.
Dylan Nicely kicked off the top of the fifth with a double to center. Whit Scafidi would reach on an error, and after a Natty Solomon single loaded the bases, Jacob Merica would drive in one with a single to the pitcher, and Garret Huffman plated two with a single to make the score 4-1.
Nicely led off the sixth with a double to center field as well, this one a ground rule double. He would come home on an infield single from Solomon. ‘Zuma would put this run back on the board in the bottom half with a bases loaded walk to JT Stevenson.
With two on and one out in the top of the seventh, Clayton Michael would plate them both with a ground rule double, and Nicely would plate him with a monster opposite field shot to right. Solomon would plate Scafidi with a double to make the score 10-2.
The Braves would cut the deficit to five in the bottom of the eighth with a two run RBI triple from Michael Robertson and an RBI groundout from Stevenson. They would add another run in the ninth as Owen Marshall came home on a wild throw to third, but that would be all Montezuma could do.
The Cardinals had ten runs on sixteen hits with four errors and stranded fifteen baserunners. The Braves scored six runs on seven hits with three errors and left ten runners on.
Dylan Nicely and Natty Solomon both went 3-5 with two RBIs and a walk to lead the Cardinals. Michael was 2-6 with two RBIs. Huffman was 3-3 with two RBIs. Irvine went 1-4 with an RBI and two walks. Merica was 2-5 with an RBI.
Robertson was 1-2 with two RBIs and three hit-by-pitches. Stevenson was 0-4 with two RBIs. Olimpio was 2-4, Smith was 2-5, Marshall was 1-3, and Jacob Cude was 1-5.
The Cardinals will host the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks on Monday, May 29 at 7:30 pm. To win that game, Coach Nicely says the Cardinals will need to play like they did on Friday.
“The same recipe that we always try to have is good pitching and good defense, and try to score some runs early,” Nicely said.
The Braves will be back in action when they host the defending RCBL champion Bridgewater Reds on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 pm. Braves head coach Chris Rush emphasized that his team will need to hit better to win.
“Our thing, probably offensively, is gonna be (to) get on them early and try to get to the pen,” Rush said.
By Dean Barker
The Grottoes Cardinals took the lead with a five-run second inning and never looked back in a 9-2 opening night home win over the Broadway Bruins on Tuesday, May 23. With the win, the Cardinals moved to 1-0, while the Bruins fell to 1-0.
“It’s always good to get the first one,” Cardinals head coach Tim Nicely said. “We were hoping (Tucker Garrison) would give us four or five innings and he gave us six, so that’s great. And for us to swing the bat the way we did, it’s really a great positive to get it started that way.”
Tucker Garrison picked up the win for Grottoes, giving up two earned runs in six innings, striking out seven and walking none with just four hits. Eli Lam pitched the last three, giving up no runs on no hits with one walk and five strikeouts.
“(The key was to) throw strikes,” Garrison said. “I missed a few, but when they put it in play, my defense was behind me to help me out.
Carl Keegan took the loss for Broadway, giving up nine earned runs in four innings on eleven hits with five walks and four strikeouts. Brayden Collier gave up no runs with one hit, no walks and a strikeout in two innings. Karson Jennings gave up no runs on two hits with two walks and a strikeout in two innings.
Despite the loss, it was a special night for Bruins head coach Bryce Strawderman, who was coaching in his first game with a team he used to play for.
“It feels good to be back home,” Strawderman said. “Broadway’s been home for five or six years, I started playing (there) out of high school. I have very high things to say about the organization, Bryan Duff, Mitchell Wilson, they all take care of the guys. Just happy to be back here.”
Jayden Nixon hit the second pitch of the game to right center for a ground rule double. After Garrison retired the next two, Austin Whetzel singled to left field to put Broadway up 1-0. In the bottom half, Dalton Nicely and Clayton Michael singled to lead off, but Dylan Nicely flew out to left, and Whetzel caught a sharp liner from Scafidi at first and tagged the base for the inning ending double play.
After Garrison struck out the side in the top of the second, Natty Solomon and Garret Huffman singled, then Jacob Merica walked to load the bases. Luke Tomajcyzk and Dalton Nicely would hit back-to-back RBI singles to center to take the lead. After Merica was thrown out trying to take home on a wild pitch, Michael would drive in two with a double to left, and Dylan Nicely plated one with a double to center to put Grottoes up 5-1.
Grottoes got back to work in the fourth, as Michael singled, Dylan Nicely reached on a failed fielder’s choice to second, and Cameron Irvine walked to load the bases. Solomon singled to drive in two and push the lead to 7-1. In the fifth, Merica doubled, and Tomajczyk and Dalton Nicely walked to load the bases, at which point Keenan was pulled for Brayden Collier. Michael would hit a soft grounder which catcher Grant Landis would pick up, step on home plate, and throw to first for the double play. Dylan Nicely would drive in two with a single, and reached second in the midst of a pickle, and then reached third on a passed ball. That would be all, as a Scafidi groundout would keep it 9-1 Cardinals.
Nixon and Tyler Ault would each single in the sixth to put runners on the corners with one out. With Keenan at the plate, Ault would be thrown out stealing second, but Nixon would use the distraction to come home and make the score 9-2. That would be all the Bruins could muster, as Keenan would strikeout to end the inning. Broadway would have only one base runner the rest of the game.
Grottoes managed nine runs on fifteen hits with no errors and ten runners left on base. Broadway had two runs on four hits with no errors and two men left stranded.
“I think (the loss) relies more on the hitting aspect,” Strawderman said. “I think we had twelve or thirteen strikeouts tonight. If you’re striking out almost half of your game, it’s hard to get anything going offensively… (It’s) hard to put up runners with no runners on base.”
Dalton Nicely went 3-4 with an RBI and a walk. Dylan Nicely went 2-4 with three RBIs. Michael went 3-5 with two RBIs. Solomon was 2-4 with two RBIs. Merica was 2-2 with a walk. Tomajczyk went 1-2 with an RBI and a walk. Huffman was 1-2 with a walk. Cam Herron went 1-2.
Dylan Nicely said the key to the success at the plate was to have a simple approach.
“I think we just tried not to do too much, try to get some guys on base early, try to drive them in,” Nicely said. “Luckily, you know, we had Tuck on the mound, so we knew if we could just get a couple runs across, we’d probably be in good shape. We got Tuck a couple runs, he was able to attack, stay in front of guys… it makes for a pretty good recipe.”
Nixon led the way for Broadway in defeat, going 2-3 with a walk. Whetzel went 1-4 with an RBI. Ault was 1-4.
The Cardinals will hope to stay undefeated when they host the defending champion Bridgewater Reds on Wednesday, May 24 at 7:30 pm. Coach Nicely said the key to victory will be to not over-emphasize their opponent.
“I mean, it’s always tough whenever we play Bridgewater, we played them in the playoffs last year,” Coach Nicely said. “And of course, we play them four times, so it’s not just a one-time game, but you know, for us… early in the season, we’re trying to get guys in the game and try to figure out who can play where with a lot of our new guys. So we’re just gonna go out there and take that approach… I’m not really concerned about who we’re playing or whatever.”
Broadway will look for their first win of the season when they travel to the Elkton Blue Sox on Friday, May 26 at 7:30 pm. To win, Coach Strawderman says his team will need to do better at the plate.
“We’re going to have to eliminate strikeouts, again,” Strawderman said. “We’re going to have to be able to throw strikes coming out of the pen, produce quality outs on the mound, just be able to play good baseball, not as many walks, not as many strikeouts, just do the little things better.”
By Dean Barker
The Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks held off the home Clover Hill Bucks in a 7-6 offensive battle on Monday, May 22. The game was the first of the 2023 campaign for both teams. With the win, the D-Backs moved to 1-0, while the Bucks started the season 0-1.
“It’s pretty big, (we have) a whole group of new guys, so it was a good game, everybody meshed together like they’re supposed to do,” Stuarts Draft head coach Les Sandridge said. “(We) picked each other up when we were supposed to, did what we had to do, so great job for the guys.”
Chandis Goff picked up the win for the D-Backs, pitching an inning and a third, giving up no runs on one walk with no hits and a strikeout. Trever Vernon started for Stuarts Draft and gave up three earned runs on two hits with a walk and three strikeouts in two and a third innings. Trevor Mitchell pitched two and two thirds innings, giving up two earned runs with two hits, two walks and a strikeout. Peter Shifflett pitched an inning, giving up one earned run on two hits with one walk and no strikeouts. Jacob Grabeel pitched two thirds innings, giving up one hit and one walk. Job Harrell got the save, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout.
“(I’m) really, really happy with our pitching tonight,” Sandridge said. “Got to see everybody kinda throw, and see where we’re at, so that was awesome.”
Will Waller took the loss for Clover Hill, giving up two earned runs on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Reid Long started on the bump for the Bucks, going five innings and giving up five earned runs on seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. Tyler Conley pitched the ninth, retiring the side with one strikeout.
Stuarts Draft jumped on the board early with an RBI infield single from Jacob Dunford in the second, driving in Nate Wayne, who doubled and took third on a wild pitch. They were back at it in the third; after Long struck out the first two, Calen Owens walked, Ryan Farris singled and stole second, making way for a two run RBI single to right from Lance Gowans to make it 3-0.
Not to be outdone, Clover Hill responded in the bottom half. With the bases loaded and one out, Lucas Clark singled to right to plate one. Lucas Shifflett was hit, and John Siciliano brought in two with an RBI single to give the Bucks a 4-3 lead, at which point Vernon was pulled for Mitchell. Shifflett stole third, Kyle Carlson was hit, and Koyce Quintanilla drove in the fifth run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake-walk, but like I said, guys held together, did what they were supposed to do, and got the job done,” Sandridge said.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, a fly ball from Landon Lightner was lost in the lights, which made way for an RBI double from Job Harrell. Caden Richter’s fly ball to center was also lost in the lights, driving in Harrell, but Richter was tagged out when he tried to stretch his double into a triple, ending the inning with a 5-5 tie.
Clark led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, and reached second on a groundout, but Carlson’s would-be two run homer was robbed at the fence by center fielder Brady Ward.
Stuarts Draft took the lead back in the seventh, as leadoff walks to Richter and Owens were followed by a two-run double from Farris which would end up being the game winner.
“I went up there looking for something, I got it, and tried to stay back and hit it in the gap, not try to do too much with it,” Farris said.
The Bucks bats came back to life in the bottom half, as Clark walked and Shifflett singled to right, and both moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Siciliano drove in one with a single to left. It looked like the Bucks had tied the game after Carlson grounded to second, leading to a force out at second and a wild throw to first, but Carlson was called out due to a late slide into the shortstop from Siciliano, ending the inning at 7-6.
Clover Hill would threaten again in the eighth, as Conley walked and took second on a wild pitch with one out, at which point Draft went to the bullpen. Alex Knicely singled to left with a wild hop, and put runners on the corners. A grounder to shortstop from Kevin Kirk led to an out at the plate. Josh Eberly walked to load the bases, but Grabeel got Clark to fly out to left to end the inning. Both teams would go down 1-2-3 in the ninth to end the game.
Stuarts Draft had seven runs on nine hits with no errors and stranded six baserunners. Clover Hill had six runs on seven hits with no errors and seven left on base.
Ferris went 2-5 with two RBIs to lead the D-Backs. Gowans went 1-5 with two RBIs. Dunford was 1-2 with an RBI. Harrell and Richter were both 1-4 with an RBI. Lightner was 2-4. Wayne went 1-4.
For the Bucks, Siciliano went 2-5 with two RBIs to lead the way in defeat. Clark was 1-3 with an RBI. Shifflet went 1-4 with an RBI. Eberly went 1-4 with a walk. Quintanilla was 0-3 with an RBI. Knicely was 1-2 with two walks, and Kirk went 1-4.
The Bucks will look for their first win of the season when they host the Elkton Blue Sox on Wednesday, May 24 at 7:30 pm. Stuarts Draft will hope to stay undefeated when they visit the Grottoes Cardinals on Monday, May 29 at 7:30 pm. To reciprocate their opening night success throughout the season, Farris said doing the basics well will be key.
“We all want to win, so what it takes is playing fundamental baseball, and I think we did that tonight,” Farris said.
By Tyler Carney
In Elkton's first game back in the league, they couldn't seem to get anything quite right, falling 10-4. Taran Baker got the start for the Blue Sox, surrendering a leadoff single to eventual player of the game, Michael Robertson. Baker then faced seven more batters in the top of the first, walking two and hitting two, both of which resulted in RBIs. He managed to get out of the first, but the Braves were already gaining momentum. Baker's day ended after 4 innings of work.
For the Braves, Will Craig started and retired ten straight Blue Sox batters before Evan Sutton drew a walk for Elkton. Craig then gave up his first hit, a single by Powell, right after that. Craig went on to strike out the next three batters, ending his day after 6.1 innings of work without allowing any runs.
When asked about his key to victory, Coach Rush said, "Will always pitches well for us. He plays club ball, which some people downplay, but he shut them down. That's what we expect from him."
Montezuma took a 2-0 lead in the first inning, and it stayed that way until the 4th, where the Braves started scoring one run per inning until the 8th, when they broke it open and reached 10 runs.
Elkton used 5 pitchers in an attempt to slow down the Braves, but to little avail. Garrett Williams replaced Baker in the 5th and pitched 3 innings before walking a few batters in a row. Then Brandon Mullins came in. Hopefully for Mullins, this was just a case of opening day nerves, as he went on to walk or hit 6 batters in a row, facing everyone he saw without managing to throw more than 2 strikes. Jacob Hensley came in for damage control and performed well in his situation. He entered the game with the bases loaded and nearly got out of the jam, but at that point, the game was firmly in the Braves' hands. Wyatt Estep replaced Hensley in the 9th. Estep is a player to look out for and someone Manager Sutton is excited about.
"We're going to get stronger. We have guys who haven't played in a few weeks versus guys who just finished a full season tonight, and the plate appearances will get better," said Sutton. "Once the game got stretched, I just wanted to see how my pitchers were feeling, and I still have some guys who aren't here yet, so I'm not concerned about the bullpen."
Later in the game, both coaches made some substitutions, and the Blue Sox managed to put some runs together. However, leadoff and designated hitter Andi Merica did not slide during a steal attempt, thinking he would beat the throw, and was thrown out, taking Elkton's wind out of their sails.
Elkton even loaded the bases in the 9th, giving them a chance to bring the deficit within two runs, but a groundout and a pop fly off hard-throwing closer Alex Belako sealed the opening day victory for Montezuma.
Michael Robertson won the player of the game award with 3 hits, 1 RBI, reaching base in 5 out of 6 at-bats, including one where he reached 3rd on an E8 and one on a walk. Robertson has the potential to establish himself as one of the league's best hitters this season, and Rush was extremely confident in him, saying he "expected this" from him.
For Elkton, they'll need to perform better all-around in their next game against the Bucks this Wednesday. As for Montezuma they’ll look to keep the ball rolling in their home opener Wednesday vs the Shockers in their home opener.
By Dean Barker
After coming up short in two consecutive RCBL Championship Finals, the Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks will hope to finish the job in the 2023 season. The D-Backs are coming off a 2022 season where they went 21-13, won the regular season title, and fell 4-3 to the Bridgewater Reds in the finals. Back in 2021, they went 19-13 and were swept by the New Market Shockers in the title series. After the final game, Stuarts Draft head coach Les Sandridge correctly predicted that his team would return to the finals in 2022.
“I’m gonna take all these guys and come back next year, and we’re gonna make another run,” Sandridge said. “A good team. We had a good group of guys, we’re just gonna come back and do it again.”
Last year, the Diamondbacks had the best offense in the league, leading the RCBL in runs (238), hits (236), doubles (41), home runs (37), RBIs (201), total bases (394), walks (149), hit batters (46), stolen bases (85), on base percentage (.427), slugging percentage (.489), batting average (.293), and OPS (.916). However, it was a struggle for their pitching staff, who were at the bottom of the league in runs allowed (182), earned runs (150), walks (144), hit batters (30), strikeouts (171), WHIP (1.85), and ERA (6.78). Because of this, Coach Sandridge emphasized that to win the title in 2023, the D-Backs will have to be firing on all cylinders.
“Everything has to fall into place at the right time; pitching, hitting and defense,” Sandridge said.
Stuarts Draft had the top three home run hitters in the league last year in Chaz Harvey (9), Zach Roberts (6), and Jack Pausic (5), all of whom will be returning to the field this year. Coach Sandridge said that to have that kind of success this year, these hitters will have to be able to perform against everyone.
“The biggest thing our offense will have to do is make adjustments to a new slate of pitchers around the league,” Sandridge said. “As long as we stay disciplined at the plate, we should be okay. (As far as) replicating last year’s offensive numbers? We will just have to wait and see.”
Last year’s run to the finals was the eleventh championship appearance for Stuarts Draft in the last fifteen years. Having been on the brink of a ring for the last two years, everyone knows that this year’s squad has their eyes on a trophy. In order to do that, Coach Sandridge says his team will need a cool and calm approach.
“(It’s) always more fun to win than to lose, but it is a game with only one winner,” Sandridge said. “If we play relaxed and enjoy the game we will have a good season. Would be awesome to bring the title back to Draft, but there are seven other good teams to get through first to get it.”
Despite the competitive nature of this league, Sandridge is still confident that Stuarts Draft could get it done, while acknowledging that it will not be easy.
“I am as confident as the other seven coaches in the league are of their teams making a run,” Sandridge said. “Every year is a new year regardless of the number of returners. Parody in the league makes each year a challenge to get through the playoffs to the championship series.”
This offseason, Stuarts Draft saw the unfortunate passing of former team president Bill Heishman. Sandridge said that he had a huge impact on the ballclub, and he will be missed.
“Bill's passing is a real loss to DBacks baseball. Bill is responsible for most all the signs we have on the fence and a proud game time supporter whether we were winning or losing,” Sandridge said. “Definitely going to be a different season not getting his pregame and postgame perspectives. He was a good man with a lot of knowledge. Going to miss him for sure.”
Stuarts Draft will open the 2023 campaign at the Clover Hill Bucks on Monday, May 22 at 7:30 pm. The D-Backs will host the Broadway Bruins on Wednesday, May 31 at 7:30 pm for their home opener.
More Success Expected In Montezuma
By Tyler Carney
After finishing near the bottom of the league in ‘22 and losing 16-0 in game one of the quarterfinals to the Shockers. Montezuma surprised by coming back to take the series 2-1. Unfortunately the magic ended after losing in 2 to the eventual runner up Stuart Draft.
According to Manager Chris Rush 60% of that series winning team will be returning. The veteran two way utility player Kyle Armstrong will return, along with All Stars Jacob Cude and Gavin Rush will return. Elijah Dunlap who broke out last season on the mound will also bring his good number back, along with his Bridgewater College Tristan Gordan who drove in 13 RBIs last season.
“ Those guys along with a few more will be the core of this team, they’ll be our impact guys,” said Rush “ We have added guys I’m excited about.”
Alex Belako has joined the Braves and will be a hard starter/closer for teams to handle. Matthew Charles will see a majority starting role. Micheal Robertson who was formerly on the Braves played in the VBL the last two seasons will be returning to Montezuma for 2023. Robertson was a .300+ college hitter and according to Rush “WIll probably be our leadoff hitter,”. Along with a few more holes to fill, guys that left the new faces in Montezuma will only add to their success in ‘22.
Success hasn’t been easy to come by in Montezuma. With only 1 championship in 2006 and no pennants fans have been left with disappointment come playoff time. However with the core guys returning along with the big time add-ons this trend may come to an end soon.
While the team struggled at the plate last season the pitching was often there to save the day finishing first in the league in pitching stats as a team. With 218 strikeouts and a league low 4.98 ERA one would wonder how the team fell under .500 in record. However the pitching staff allowed a league high 21 home runs. Besides that stat the staff had great numbers and Rush thinks this will be the case in ‘23.
“I do expect us to be the top of the pitching stats in the league, it’ll be tough to do what we did in 22’ but we have the guys to do it,” said Rush
One of the pitching worries for Rush and his staff this season will be the league reforming back to their pre-covid 28 game schedule and that with more games Rush is worried about his pitchers getting overworked before a playoff push. Hopefully Rush’s offseason additions and returning breakout Elijah Dunlap who threw one of the best games in the entire league in ‘22 will give him enough production to get past the first round again.
As for batting, the team had a rough year in 22’. They only managed 12 home runs and an average 116 RBIs. However they only struck out 176 times, second only to the Cardinals, which suggests the problem isn’t bad bats at the plate but an aggressiveness problem. Rush describes this aggressiveness problem as the biggest thing he wants to improve in ‘23.
“ As a team we need to be more aggressive, but particularly at the plate,” said Rush “ We gotta get back to doing the simple things as well as we can, if we can do the simple things better than everyone else you keep yourself in ball games.”
The little things will be the deciding factor on if the Braves can build off their 22’ success after that Rush says it’s on the players. “It’s on them and how bad they want it, the more they want it the better we’ll get at the little things.”
Consistent success seems to be in Montezuma. The Braves open the season on the road against the Blue Sox on May 22nd at 7:30pm at Stonewall Memorial Park.
Playoff Push on in Grottoes
By Tyler Carney
After a hard fought quarter finals the Cardinals fell 13-12 to the Reds which ended their series and their 2022 campaign. WIth the league as close as it was in 2022 while the season ended on a disappointment the Cardinals did fall to eventual champions in Bridgewater. However 2023 could be the year all the pieces fall into place.
“We had all the pieces, we just couldn’t put it together and it was a tough way to go out, but every year is a new year.” said Cardinals manager Tim Nicely.
The Cards are a historically successful club, however they have not tasted a championship since 1996. The Cards finished second in hitting and third in pitching in 22’, a well rounded team with only a few holes. Nicely has built a good core in Grottoes and is bringing them back for 2023.
Dillion Nicely the hard hitting catcher will bring his 19 RBIs and .333 average back to the Cards lineup, also returning will be Clayton Michael, Jacob Merica, and Cam Irvine. Leading the way on the mound will be Tucker Garrison, the ace pitcher for the Cards.
“ The guys returning are my top guys from last year, we have those pieces,” said Nicely
The club is bringing in a handful of new faces to fill gaps left or fill holes. Natty Solomon and Adian Miller from EMU will join the team. Garret Gargano and Luke Tomajcyzk from Bridgeway College will help round off the lineup, and Mason McDowell will be a handy two-way player for the Cards. Along with a few high school guys.
While Grottoes finished third in general pitching stats in 22’ the bullpen only managed an 11-13 record putting them in a poor position for a playoff push. The team struck out 195 batters however this came from the top of their line up with 50 from Spencer Williams and 37 from Tucker Garrison. Consistent innings on the mound is a need for the Cards. Losing Spencer Williams, Nicely will need to find strikeouts elsewhere. Luckily it is also Tim Nicely's biggest focus for the season.
“ We need to be more consistent with pitching all the way through the rotation, I can’t only have 4 or 5 guys I can rely on game in and game out especially with 28 games this season and the playoffs you need 8 or even 10 that can pitch,” said Nicely “We need the number 5,6 or 7 that can do well for us.”
Some new faces on the mound will help Nicely and Garrison as well as a rounded bullpen. Including those mentioned earlier the team has recently added Jimmy Miller and Eli Elgersma to their rotation and returning two-way Austin Dansey will pitch and field for the Cards again.
“We knew we had the guys to compete with anybody obviously tough to lose in a game 3 in the first round and I’m sure our guys will remember the way we were eliminated but every year is a new year,” said Nicely “We will lean on our core and hope the new guys adapt.”
The playoff push will certainly be on in Grottoes this year, with a strong core and a strong manager Grottoes will be a threat to anyone daring to play them.
The Cards start their run May 23rd at 7:30 in their home park of Shifflett field vs the Bruins.
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