by Jason Hanes
Head coach Steve Smith’s Richmond Hornets 15u East squad came to the Triple Crown Summer Nationals to put in work. While there might not be a lot of hotel pool time for his squad in Myrtle Beach, SC, even without any more games to play Thursday, they’re still having fun.
A 14-run fourth inning broke open a 2-1 contest and let the Hornets pull away for a 16-1 victory over Dirtbags 15u Sneed, giving the Hornets the top spot out of Pool A via run differential after three teams finished with a 2-1 record.
“No pool time today!” Smith said with a smile. “We’re here to do our job, but we’re still going to have some fun."
The Hornets put a pair of runs on the scoreboard in the second inning. Seth Lahocki doubled to start the inning, then a single by Camden Weston put runners on the corners with no one out. Kevin Puryear would step up and lace a single to left to plate Lahocki with the first run of the contest.
After a walk loaded the bases, Weston scored on a wild pitch for the second run of the frame. Dirtbags hurler Carson Litchfield would buckle down to get out of the inning, freezing a pair of Hornets for strikeouts, then getting a fielder’s choice to end the inning with his side only down 2-0.
The Dirtbags looked to challenge in the third inning. Mason Fultz led off with a single, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Connor Stephens laid down a perfect bunt for a single to put runners on the corners with no one out. Having a runner on third would be key as a wild pitch allowed Fultz to trot home to make it 2-1.
Like Litchfield in the second for the Dirtbags, it would be starting pitcher Scott Landon who put out the fire for the Hornets in the third. Landon would get a strikeout and a fly out to help end the inning, preserving a 2-1 advantage.
“There was no pressure,” Landon said. “Great defense sparks good offense. If we make good, aggressive plays on defense, it gets us right back in the dugout and gets us on offense, and good things happen.”
The Hornets left the bases loaded in the third, but couldn’t plate anyone. In the top of the fourth, Landon allowed only a walk as the Dirtbags couldn’t tie the game.
"I was doing my best to make them guess on pitches,” Landon said. “If I saw a kid that dove, I’d throw him a fastball, then a changeup in an 0-2 count.”
In the bottom of the fourth, the game was turned on its head. After the first batter for the Hornets was retired via a fly out, the next 12 batters all reached base safely. Adam Lankford had one of the big early hits in the inning as his high chopper off the turf down the line at third went for a two-run single. Jabril Bullock helped the cause with a pinch-hit single to plate a run, then a two-run single by Junmonte Hamiel extended the lead further.
In all, the Hornets scored 14 runs on six hits in the inning, with the last run coming on a wild pitch to end the contest early.
“That’s an excellent team over there,” Coach Smith said of the Dirtbags. “They had some good pitching. They played good defense. (Litchfield) was locating his spots. We had a little bit of trouble hitting the baseball, but that’s what this game is about. It’s about peaks and valleys. In the fourth inning, they had a pitching change, and the bats came alive. We were able to put some pressure on them, and we came out with the ‘W.’”
Richmond Hornets 15u East finishes with a 2-1 record in pool play, matching the records of the Ohio Spiders and RBI Redwings. However, the Hornets 15u East program will take the top spot in the pool based on a plus-15 run differential, the best in the group.