- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
For most of Tuesday's American Legion baseball game against host Calvert Council posts 85, 206, 220 and 274, La Plata Post 82's Justin Snell was just a spectator on the bench.
But with two on and two outs in the top of the sixth inning, Snell finally got his opportunity in the batter's box. He did not waste it.
The rising La Plata High School junior lashed a double to the right-center field gap to drive home a pair of runs and break a 1-1 tie. That proved to be more than enough for starter Alex Calvert, who hurled a two-hit gem to help the visitors to a 4-1 Frank Riley League win at Patuxent High School.
“I was sitting on the bench the whole game,” Snell said. “I got my opportunity and took it.”
Up until that point in the sixth, La Plata (8-5, 6-5 Frank Riley League) had not been able to mount much offense against Calvert starter Daniel Castro. But with Calvert and Connor Welch on the bases, Snell delivered the hit La Plata had been looking for.
“I've been working on waiting on the ball. Fastball came in, I waited on it and drove it to right-center,” Snell said of the two-bagger that ultimately served to be the game-winning hit.
On the mound for the visitors, Calvert was dominant for La Plata on the stifling July early evening. The pitcher went the distance, surrendering just one run on two hits while striking out seven.
“Coming out on a hot day and Alex threw like that. He probably threw about 115 pitches and battled through at the end,” La Plata head coach John Childers said. “He was awesome. That gave us a chance to win.”
Calvert (19-6, 9-4) opened the game in fine form, as Mike Labriola's double in the second turned into a run when Tommy Labriola knocked him in with a single an at-bat later for an early 1-0 lead.
The team had runners on first and second, both of whom walked, in the third, but La Plata's pitcher Calvert shut the hosts down after that. He did not allow a baserunner after walking Brian Portillo with two outs in the third until the seventh inning.
Calvert walked Mike Labriola to open the seventh, but set down 10 straight batters between the two free passes. Including the two base hits, just four balls were hit out of the infield off of Calvert the entire game.
“I was just kind of zoned in from the third inning on,” Calvert said. “I hadn't pitched in a while, but I got in my groove and started dealing.”
Of the game's other highlights for Childers was the fact that some of the team's younger players supplied all of the run production.
La Plata's first run was scored on a Charlie Wright grounder with the bases loaded that pushed Jimmy Monaghan across to knot the score at 1 in the fourth. Then, Snell's two-run double in the sixth was followed by a Chase Childers RBI single to provide the eventual winning margin.
“It's great to see all four runs driven in by sophomores,” John Childers said. “Justin comes in, hadn't played all game, and in the sixth inning gets the big hit to the opposite field. That's a lot of fun to coach that kind of game.”
The loss was a devastating blow for the Calvert squad, as it entered the day's action tied in the loss column with Greenbelt Post 136 for the league lead.
Had each team held serve throughout the final few days of the schedule, a playoff would have been required to determine which would move on to play in the state tournament. For Calvert, which represented the league at the state affair a year ago, losing means its chances of extending its season are remote.
“We were tied and now we're one down,” Calvert coach Cleon Jones said. “Our fate's not in our hands. It's up to other people to beat Greenbelt.”
Greenbelt, which defeated Bowie Post 66 on Tuesday, has just one more game left to play, that scheduled for Sunday against Bowie.
After a hot start, Calvert struggled down the stretch and with injuries to stalwarts like Zach Piazza and Cody Robertson hurting the team. Pitching depth, which had been among the squad's strengths, became an issue as the team has limped towards the season's end by dropping three of its last four league games.
“We had people go away on vacation. We had a couple pitchers with arm problems, and I think the guys that are here are tired,” Jones said. “We came back from a tournament. We had like three games in a row after that tournament and we haven't played right since. That tournament took a lot out of us, but if these guys want to go somewhere and play baseball they have to get used to the long haul playing baseball.”
Conversely, La Plata has saved its best for the end of the season. While a sluggish 2-5 start effectively removed the team from the race for the league title, La Plata rebounded and had won six in a row with Tuesday's win.
“The way we came together at the end is really positive,” John Childers said. “It wasn't always easy. We started out 2-5, but I think with kids playing from different high schools and moving them to different positions it took some time for them to get comfortable. They're finally doing it. It's just a little late.”
La Plata Post 82 4, Calvert Council posts 85, 206, 220, 274 1
La Plata 000 103 0 — 4 8 0
Calvert 010 000 0 — 1 2 3
WP Calvert, LP D. Castro
Extra-base hits: 2B — M. Labriola (C), J. Snell (LaP)