Four National Division teams at the Cal Ripken World Series went into the last day of pool play with matching 2-1 records, knowing that a victory would earn them a spot in the tournament's elimination rounds, and a loss would mean a ticket home, and when the dust settled it was the Mid-Atlantic squad from Clifton Park, N.Y., and the Ohio Valley squad of Lexington, Ky., that remained standing, as each came out on top of its must-win match-up on Wednesday afternoon.
In the final game of National Division's final pool play contest, the Clifton Park boys (3-1) dropped the Midwest representatives from Waite Park, Minn. (2-2), 11-1 at Cal Sr.'s Yard.
The winners wasted little time putting the home-team Waite Park boys behind them, scoring four times in the opening frame, the high-point of which was Payton Johnson's three-run homer to the deepest part of the ballpark. Earlier in the frame, Michael Spulnick scored the first game's first run on a wild pitch, after getting on base via a one-out single.
Waite Park loaded the bags and had the tying run at the plate in the bottom half of the first, but Clifton Park hurler Mike Jeffers exited the jam with an inning-ending strikeout.
Clifton Park went up 6-0 in the top of the second with a pair of runs on one hit.
In the top of the fourth, the winning side got a two-RBI single off the bat of Nikolas Malachowski that made the score 8-0. Ian Anderson padded the Clifton Park lead by one with a run-scoring base hit, and Johnson scored his team's 10th run, making it home from third on an error.
Waite Parke, needing to score once to avoid having the game end early due to the 10-run mercy rule, got its lone run of the game when Connor Schoborg hit a double that plated teammate Mike Petron from second.
Clifton Park added one more run in the top of the sixth.
Jeffers made the start for Clifton Park and picked up the win, going four innings in which he struck out seven, walked three and held his opponents to three hits.
One day before, Clifton Park dropped the previously unbeaten Southeast squad from West Raleigh, N.C., 8-4 atWrigley Field.
The Raleigh squad jumped out to a three-run lead in the bottom of the first, with Andrew Buchholz leading the charge by belting a two-RBI double to the outfield fence. Before the frame was out, Raleigh's Andrew Molden knocked in his team's third tally with a one-RBI single.
In the top of the second frame, Clifton Park took control of the contest with four runs. Kevin Huerter helped out the winning cause during that frame by launching a two-run home run over the fence for his first round-tripper of the tournament.
The top of the third inning saw Clifton Park run out to a 5-3 lead in short order, as Jeffers ripped a solo homer.
Clifton Park's two-run outburst in the fourth was highlighted by another solo shot, with this one coming off the bat of Spulnick.
The winners padded their lead by one in the sixth.
Raleigh sent six hitters to the plate in its final at-bat and scored one run, but Huerter, who had come on in relief in the fifth frame, was able to wrap up the game, getting a strikeout, and recording the game's final out on a grounder to short.
Malachowski made the start for Clifton Park and went four innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits, striking out two and walking one to earn the win. Huerter struck out two, walked one, and was not charged with an earned run over two innings of work.
Huerter was Clifton Park's top offensive force, going 2-for-3 with three RBIs and two runs scored. Spulnick wrapped up the game 3-for-4 with two RBIs and one run. Jeffers was 2-for-3 with a single to go with his home run. Luke Hicks helped the winning cause with a 3-for-3, two-run performance.
Buchholz was 1-for-3 with one RBI and one run in the loss, while Molden finished 2-for-2 with one run and one RBI. Jonathan D'Ercole was 2-for-4 with a run scored, while Brycen Braswell went 1-for-2 with a walk and one run.
Lexington headed to finals
With a narrow 3-1 victory over the Southeast champs from Raleigh, N.C. (2-2), at Cal Sr.'s Yard on Wednesday, the Ohio Valley squad of Lexington, Ky., guaranteed itself a spot in the tournament's upcoming championship round.
Holding a narrow 2-1 advantage in the bottom of the fifth frame, the Lexington boys padded their lead by one with some inventive base running. With two outs and no one on base, Kainen Bibb kept Lexington alive by reaching base on an infield error. With starting pitcher Austin Dick at the plate, Bibb swiped second base, then stole third when Dick earned a walk. Now at first base, Dick broke for second on the first pitch, drew a throw from the Raleigh catcher, and got himself involved in a rundown, giving Bibb enough time to scamper home for his team's third tally.