Bucs Lose Lead, Face Perilous Path
By Ryan Lazo, sports editor
Aug 14, 2014, 23:35
Post 284 Bucs players gather around home plate to congratulate Brett Barber on his grand slam.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS — Just one day after compiling a 13-run inning in response to an opponent taking an early lead, the Post 284 Bucs revisited history in their second-round game of the American Legion Junior State Tournament. Much like one night earlier, it was Post 284 falling behind in the 2nd inning as Martinsville Post 42 pushed across three runs, but manager Marcus Morgan made sure his team would not panic.
He pulled them aside after the rough inning and discussed what they had been able to accomplish just one night earlier and they responded. After a lead-off strikeout began the frame, eight consecutive Bucs hitters reached base albeit one on a fielder's choice. Post 284 was not exactly knocking around opposing starter Hylton Dalton, but were putting together lengthy at-bats which turned to walks.
Additionally, when they did put the ball in play, the Bucs hustled out of the box and forced Martinsville into some costly miscues while also executing a perfect suicide squeeze to tie the game. But the biggest blow of the inning would come off the bat of Brett Barber on a 3-2 offering.
Barber sent the outer half of the plate fastball over the left field fence and pumped his fists as he rounded first base after blasting a grand slam. The Bucs would tack on one more additional run to take a six-run lead and looked well on their way to another comfortable win.
Until they weren't.
The Bucs seemingly took their foot off the gas pedal after their eight-run explosion and it allowed Post 42 to hang in the game long enough to tie the contest and eventually take a two-run lead in extra innings. Unfortunately for the Bucs, the two-run deficit would be too much to overcome as they learned a lesson in an 11-9 loss which pits them in the loser's bracket.
"The exact same situation came up," Morgan said after the game. "I gave those guys the same speech I gave them yesterday, used it as a reference and they responded well again ... But then they got complacent. They had a big lead and saw the other team was dragging a little and they took the foot off their throat."
And that's a lesson which proves costly for Post 284 moving forward.
The loss puts the squad into the loser's bracket, meaning they need to win two games in one day to survive and advance to play the next day. Winning two games is hard enough as the first two days proved, but having to do so in the same day while being short on arms is a tall task.
But that doesn't mean the Bucs aren't up for the challenge. All season long, Post 284 has exhibited a gritty attitude and it has helped them win games they didn't think possible, including one in which Dylan Wells blasted a walk-off home run. And it was that grittiness on display even in a loss to Post 42.
Jayson Maitland legs out this perfect suicide squeeze to tie the game.
There was Jayson Maitland executing a perfectly placed suicide squeeze to tie the game early and then they was the Bucs threatening to tie the game in the bottom of the 8th inning with two runners on and just one out. It's why Morgan is not yet ready to throw in the towel on his team's chances just yet.
"We're going to be having a rematch with Post 137 and a couple of those games we have played against them has been real close," Morgan explained. "My guys are chomping at the bit to get another chance at them because of what they did during the regular season and because they are hurt from tonight's loss."
However, the Bucs could have been in position to win the game and not be in a perilous situation if not for a controversial call in the 1st inning.
Following a Quenton Thomas single and Wells reaching on an error, Maitland drew a walk to load the bases for second baseman Brandon Gunn. Gunn worked the count to 1-1 and unloaded on an inner half fastball and pulled it down the line. All three Bucs' base-runners crossed home plate, but there was confusion among the umpiring crew.
Post 42 celebrates taking the lead in extra innings.
At first, the ruling stated the ball was foul and Gunn would still be at the plate and then it turned into a three-run double once again. But after some more deliberation, the umpires decided they did not witness white chalk shoot up from the dirt and the runs were wiped off the board. While the adversity of the situation helped Post 284 later in the game, the missed chance also kept them from putting Post 42 into an even bigger hole.
"One of the main things that happened after we went down and we got the three runs with the discrepancy of the foul issue, it pumped our guys up," Morgan said. "Every time they are down, they find a way to get back up, so hopefully they can take in this tough loss tonight and come back ready to play."
Losing a six-run lead can be mentally devastating, but the Bucs have shown resiliency all season long, making a miraculous comeback attempt not out of the realm of possibilities.