by Jason Hanes
After rolling through pool play at Triple Crown Summer Nationals, the Ohio Spiders 12u came into bracket play brimming with confidence as the top seed, but soon, they had their biggest test in the tournament.
Tied 9-9 entering the bottom of the fifth, the Spiders would get a walk-off win via a wild pitch with the bases loaded to defeat the Shelton Climbers, 10-9, to move into the semifinals Saturday morning against the Virginia Venom.
In the bottom of the fifth, Mathius Sprickman led off with a single up the middle. After a walk to Zacary Karhoff, a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position for Andrew Karhoff. Once the count reached 3-1, Karhoff was put on intentionally to load the bases. With Karson Chamberlin standing in, a pitch missed the inside portion of the plate and went to the backstop. Sprickman raced home and slid in before the tag to give the Spiders a 10-9 win.
“We came out a little lethargic, but all in all, we played pretty decent,” said Ohio Spiders head coach Lawrence Wilson. “The other team played really well.”
Things didn’t start out well for the Spiders, as the Climbers raced out to a quick 4-0 lead. Two walks and a hit batter to start the game loaded the bases for Anthony Flashey. Flashey would draw a walk to plate the first run of the game, and the Spiders went to the bullpen with an early pitching change. Andrew Karhoff would get a pair of strikeouts in six pitches, but a two-run double to the fence in right-center by Kyle Howe made it 3-0. A slow chopper to third by Landon Cartwright would go for an infield hit and bring home another run to make it 4-0.
The Spiders would load the bases in the first, but couldn’t get a run across. In the second, the Spiders would roll to six runs to take the lead.
Zacary Karhoff started the scoring action with an RBI double, then after a wild pitch plated another run, Andrew Karhoff’s double made it 4-3. Wild pitches and passed balls led to two more runs, with a sacrifice fly to left by Dominic Sintic finishing off the scoring in the frame.
A sudden rain shower moved through in the midpoint of the game. When the downpour ended 10 minutes later, it left a hot field soaking wet and sent the humidity even higher.
"What impressed me most about my team today was that they were able to overcome this heat,” said Wilson. "We had that little rain come in, and you could see the heat coming up through the turf. I think that’s a big testament to them to keep them hydrated and keep them motivated. Coming from Ohio, we’re not used to this climate.”
The heat can be especially tough on catchers, who must wear all their protective gear, then bounce up quickly out of a crouch if a pitch gets away. Sintic was the one tasked with being put in the sweat box today for the Ohio Spiders, made tougher by the passing rain shower making the ball slippery.
It’s really tough," Sintic said. "You’ve just got to stay hydrated. It helps when pitchers are hitting their spots and having good offspeed pitches.”
A wild pitch gave another run to the Spiders in the third, making it 7-4. But the Climbers weren’t quite done yet. Traveling all the way from Shelton, Wash., the Climbers showed fighting spirit by plating a pair of runs in the top of the fourth. Wyatt Depoe’s RBI single to left made it 7-5, then Depoe scored on a two-out single by Dominic Kaptur to pull his side within a run.
Two much-needed insurance runs crossed the plate in the bottom of the inning for the Spiders. Sintic’s single up the middle plated Chamberlin to make it 8-6, then Sintic scored on Tracer Lamaner’s single to put his team up three runs.
The Climbers would reach the summit in the fifth, tying the game in dramatic fashion. With two gone in the inning and the bases loaded, Ajay Jiminez ripped a shot over the second baseman’s head all the way to the fence in right center. All three runs would cross the plate and the Climbers had a 9-9 tie.
Howe worked into the fifth inning for the Climbers, taking a tough-luck loss after fighting hard throughout the game on the mound before being lifted with two men on in the frame.
The Ohio Spiders will now face Virginia Venom (Neighbor) in one winner's bracket semifinal. The Shelton Climbers were victorious in one loser's bracket game later Friday and will now come back Saturday morning for another contest.