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By Leyton Pullin
On Tuesday July 20 the Montezuma Braves defeated the Grottoes Cardinals 9-7 in a back and forth affair.
Grottoes got the scoring started right away. The second hitter if the game in fact as Clayton Michael hit a line drive to right center that snuck its way out of the ballpark for a solo home run to put the Cardinals out in front 1-0.
The Braves set the tone for the game however in the bottom half of the 1st as the Grottoes lead wouldn’t last for long. Isiah Blanks lead the game off with a 4 pitch walk and was followed by Hunter Clever later in the inning as he walked as well. PJ Hanisak was the next hitter and struck out swinging as he chased a pitch above his head for the second out. Jacob Critzer was next up and delivered as he hit a base clearing sing to drive in Blanks and Clever to put the Braves on top 2-1 after 1.
The Braves stretched their lead again in the 2nd inning as Noah Burtner put two on for the Braves as the Cardinals starter hit Owen Marshall and then walked Grant Thomas to start the inning. Wyatt Campbell followed with a beautiful sacrifice bunt to advance both runners into scoring position. Blanks came to the plate next and hit a ground ball to Jacob Zoller at second base that was fielded cleanly but allowed Marshall to score from third to put the Braves on top 3-1.
The Braves had another chance in the 3rd inning but Jacob Critzer was thrown out at the plate as he tried to stretch the lead by a beautiful relay from the Cardinals from Keegan Woolford to Zoller to Dylan Nicely at the plate for the out.
Montezuma did capitalize in the 4th inning as Thomas hit a single with one down and was driven in later by a Kyle Armstrong single to stretch the lead out to 4-1 for the Braves.
Grottoes went to work in the top of the 5th and tried to cut into the Braves lead. Keegan Woolford drew a one out walk and was pushed around by a Dylan Nicely single to get him to third base. Zoller followed and grounded a ball to second base that was flipped to Blanks at short to try and turn two but the throw to Hanisak at first was off target allowing Woolford to score and make it a 4-2 game.
Right on cue Montezuma stretched the lead back out to 3 runs as Burtner loaded the bases up once again with two hits batsmen and a single by Gavin Rush. Thomas delivered with the bases loaded as he lifted a ball to center field just deep enough for his runners to tag and bring Critzer in to score.
Grottoes bounced right back in the top of the 6th cutting into the lead once more. The inning did not start off promising as the first two hitters were retired before Dalton Nicely drew a walk and Boogie Saunders delivered with a RBI double showing off his wheels to cut the lead back down to 2 runs at 5-3.
The only three up three down inning came in the bottom of the 6th as the Braves were retired in order by Jacob Dansey. Grottoe then tried to capitalize off the momentum as Woolford came to the plate. Braves starter Hunter Clever got ahead in the count and had two strikes on the home run leader before he hung a breaking ball that was demolished by Woolford into the night sky for his league leading 9th home run. The Cardinals had cut the lead to just a run 5-4.
The Grottoes pitching staff yet again could not hold on to the cut they had put in the lead as the bases were loaded again by a hit batsman, walk and then a single by Rush. Owen Marshall came up next with the bases laoded and no one down. Marshall hit a grounder to Nicely at third who threw it to Dylan Nicely at the plate for the force play then he threw it to Scafidi at first base for the rare but clutch 5-2-3 double play. The Cardinals were not out of the woods yet as Dansey would walk the remaining bases loaded before walking Campbell to push a run across for the Braves and stretch the lead back out now to 6-4.
Montezuma went to Donald Seekford to relieve Clever n the top of the 8th. The only 3 hitters he faced all reached. Two by a walk and then another by a wild pitch on a third strike. Keegan Oliver then came in to try and keep the Braves in front with the bases jammed and no outs. Oliver struck out the next two hitters and looked to be in a favorable spot before Woolford came to the plate. Woolford got behind in the count again at 2-2 and barely made contact with a blooped that found a hole behind second base to allow Tristan Shoemaker and Witt Scafidi to score tying the game at 6-6. Dalton Nicely was at third base as Zoller came to the plate. Zoller watched a ball that got away from the catcher, hit off the back stop, and shot out into the field allowing Nicely to take off and score without having to slide and giving the Cardinals their first lead since the 1st inning.
Right on cue though the Braves struck back with a little help from the Grottoes pitching staff. Armstrong drew a walk to start the inning off of Dansey in the 8th. Clever then doubled to the wall allowing Armstrong to reach third base. Grottoes then made the call for Michael to go to the hill. Michael struck out the first hitter he faced but still had two runners in scoring position. Critzer came up next and popped a ball up to the left side of the infield. Dalton Nicely came over to make the grab but dropped the ball allowing for Armstrong to score and tie the game. Rush came up next and grounded out to Scafidi at first but Clever still snuck home to score and give the Braves the lead back. Marshall added one more run in the inning as he singled allowing Critzer to score and stretch the lead to 9-7.
Keegan Oliver then went to work in the top of the 9th striking out the side to close the game.
Grottoes drops to 9-10 with the loss. Jacob Dansey (0-1) takes the loss for the Cardinals in his first outing on the season. Keegan Woolford tallied a 2 for 3 night with a home run, 3 RBI and 2 walks. The Cardinals will Travel to Bridgewater (5-12) on Wednesday July 20 at 7:30 looking to avoid being swept by the Reds in the regular season series.
For Montezuma they improve to 11-7 on the season and secure winning record on the year. Keegan Oliver (3-0) secures the win for the Braves after 2.0 IP, 5Ks and 2 hits. Gavin Rush had a great night at the plate going 3 for 5 with 3 singles and a RBI. Montezuma will turn right around and play a key game in terms of playoff seeding as the will host Clover Hill (11-6) on July 21 at 7:30PM.
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