Beverly/Lowell blown out of state tourney, 14-2

LANCASTER – For the second time in as many days, Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 found itself in an early hole in the American Legion state baseball tournament at Al Beavers Field.

As that hole continued to grow larger and larger in a game against Prospect Post 368 Thursday morning, so did the likelihood that Beverly/Lowell would make a quick two-and-out exit from the state tourney.

That’s unfortunately what happened for the Washington County-based legion team, as it dropped a 14-2 decision to Prospect to see its season come to an end.

“That’s kind of our bugaboo with our young kids,” said an emotional B/L skipper Todd Engle after the game. “When they get behind, they start doubting themselves a little bit. So it was important to strike first. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened here today.”

Less than 12 hours after falling to Pickerington 5-1 in the first round of the tournament, Beverly/Lowell probably felt confident coming in against Prospect, a team it defeated 9-1 earlier this month. This time, however, Post 368 went with its ace on the mound and that proved to make all the difference.

Right-hander Zach Carroll pitched eight strong innings, allowing just two runs on two hits, neither sharply hit, to lead his team to victory. Carroll threw 127 pitches (73 strikes) in the winning effort, striking out 10 and walking seven.

“We knew their pitcher was a stud,” Engle said. “He stepped up and knocked us on our heels.”

On the other hand, Beverly/Lowell’s pitching staff suffered a rare off day, allowing a whopping 14 hits on the day which led to 14 Prospect runs.

Starter Derek Layton surrendered the first four, lasting just 1.2 innings. Lefty Justin Hill came on in relief and retired the first 10 batters he faced before allowing Prospect’s second four-spot of the game. Kyler Dennis pitched the final three innings of the game, giving up three runs apiece in the eighth and ninth innings.

After getting down 5-0 the night before to Pickerington, Post 389/750 found itself facing an early deficit again Thursday when Layton gave up four second inning runs. Prospect had three hits in the inning, but also drew one walk and had three hit batsmen. Hill came on with the bases still loaded and two outs in the inning and got a big strikeout to limit the damage at the time.

Beverly/Lowell cut the lead in half in the bottom of the fourth without even getting a base hit. Gunnar Smith led off the inning with a walk and went to second on Tate Engle’s grounder to short that was booted for an error. Hill was then hit by a pitch, loading the bases with nobody out. Bryce Gandee lined to right field for the first out, but not deep enough to score Smith from third. Devin Leister came through the next at-bat, though, drawing a bases-loaded walk to bring in a run.

Kyler Dennis followed with a groundout to first that drove in Engle and made it a 4-2 ballgame. Beverly/Lowell was still threatening with runners at second and third and two outs, but Carroll got Ethan Estes to pop out to shallow right to end the inning.

Prospect broke the game open in the top of the sixth inning, an inning Hill was on the verge of escaping damage-free.

Scott Foster opened the inning with a single, the first batter to reach base against Hill in the game. Garrett Wigal followed suit with a single of his own to put two on with none out.

The runners advanced on Kirk Manns’ sacrifice bunt before Hill walked No. 9 hitter Mo Britton to load the bases with one down.

What happened next would’ve likely been the play of the game had Beverly/Lowell rallied and won.

Austin Hathaway lined a ball to shallow left field that Leister made an impressive diving, run-saving catch on for the second out. It looked like that might be just the spark Engle’s club needed to get the engine going and go on a big run. However, next batter Curt Wyckoff rewrote the script with a two out, bases-clearing double down the left field line to make it 7-2 and stick the proverbial dagger in Beverly/Lowell’s heart.

“When they got that second four-spot, the kid got a big two-out knock,” Engle said. “That was the difference in the game. They got two-outs.”

From there, Prospect would add seven more runs while B/L was unable to get anything across.

B/L just could not produce a big hit when it needed one all game, stranding nine runners on base in the contest.

“We had three different opportunities early in the game to get a two-out hit that would have maybe given us momentum,” Engle said.

“We work on that stuff. We talk about clutching up and having a whole new approach and that kind of stuff. Just didn’t happen today.”

While a state title was the ultimate goal, Engle felt the 2014 season was a successful one as his young club produced a 26-15 record en route to claiming a district championship. The future looks bright as Beverly/Lowell returns all but three of its senior players plus its entire junior team which finished second at its state tournament.

Thursday’s loss was the final time in a legion uniform for Hill, Ben Barnas and Jake Ullman, who was unable to play against Prospect with a back injury.

“I hate this result, but this has been a great, great team to work with,” Engle said.

“The three that I just said goodbye to were a big part of that. They led this team. They picked these young kids up and showed them how to compete.”