Pita, Post 137 explode past Post 284 Pirates
By JACOB VAUGHAN, Sports Editor
Jul 19, 2013, 11:56
Colonial Heights Post 284 Pirates right fielder Drew Sober tries unsuccessfully to avoid a tag from South Richmond Post 137 third baseman A.J. Nicely during an American Legion District 11 playoff game on Thursday in Chesterfield. South Richmond won 14-6 (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
CHESTERFIELD – Colonial Heights Post 284 Pirates center fielder Grant Grunfelder robbed South Richmond Post 137 second baseman Matthew Pita of an extra-base hit with a textbook sliding catch on Thursday.
Regrettably for the visiting Pirates, the third-inning sequence was most notable not because of the defensive gem but because it marked the only time in six at-bats that Pita did not reach base safely.
Buoyed by Pita’s 4-for-5 showing, third-ranked South Richmond rallied to claim a 14-6 victory in the first round of the American Legion District 11 playoffs at Lloyd C. Bird High School.
The sixth-seeded Pirates led by five runs in the sixth inning, but the home team scored 13 unanswered to advance to the winners bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
Pita’s stellar night at the plate included three doubles and a three-run home run in the seventh inning. He finished with four RBIs, scored four runs and somehow managed to improve his already jaw-dropping batting average.
“He was hurt earlier in the season, so we didn’t get to use him early on,” said South Richmond coach Byron Ballard. “He has only played about eight games, but he’s hitting .700.”
Cameron Kaufman received the staring nod for the Pirates on Thursday and bridged the sixth-seeded visitors into the sixth inning (photo by Jacob Vaughan).
The setback relegated the Pirates to the losers bracket and left Post 284 coach Russ Gammon lamenting a bygone opportunity.
“We play not to lose instead of playing to win,” Gammon said. “And that’s an identity and a mindset that needs to be changed with our young kids. They have to figure it out on their own. It’s not something any amount of coaching can change.”
South Richmond swept the three regular-season meetings between the two teams, but the Pirates seemed poised to topple their higher-seeded hosts in the early going.
Zack Harris and Owen Togna led off the top of the first inning with a walk and single to center field, respectively. In the game’s third at-bat, Post 284 first baseman Austin Gammon crushed a full-count, three-run home run over the fence in left-center field.
“[The Pirates] played a great game, they really did,” Ballard said. “They got excited when they hit a home run in the first inning. They got energy from it and we were flat.”
The ensuing 3-0 lead grew to 4-0 with an unearned run in the third. South Richmond pulled one back in the bottom of the fifth, but Grunfelder and Drew Sober answered with back-to-back RBI base hits in the sixth to give the Pirates a 6-1 cushion.
It wasn’t nearly enough.
Post 137 batted around in the home half of the frame, plating seven runs on five hits before inning’s end. With no outs and the bases loaded, Shawn Childress’ perfectly executed bunt squeeze scored Andrew Saunders and, according to Ballard, changed the complexion of the contest.
“We got a couple guys on, they made a mistake and we loaded the bases,” Ballard said. “When we squeezed that one run across and he was safe at first, that changed the momentum. It made a big difference.”
Pita’s team-high fifth home run of the season – a never-in-doubt line drive to left field – made the score 11-6 in the seventh. South Richmond designated hitter H.J. Ellis, who finished 3-for-6 with three RBIs, provided the final margin with a two-run single in the penultimate frame.
Ian Mayes, the second of four South Richmond right-handers to toe the rubber, earned the pitching win. Colonial Heights starter Cameron Kaufmann bridged the Pirates into the sixth inning but absorbed the loss.
Gammon, Sober and Togna finished with two hits apiece for the Pirates, who will met the Post 284 Bucs in an elimination game at Shepherd Stadium on Friday. South Richmond advanced to a second-round clash with No. 2 West End Post 361 on the same day.
POST 284 (P) 301 002 000 – 6 12 3
POST 137 000 017 33X – 14 18 2