|Champ UC’s ‘Early Show’ keeps locals at home Friday
|Posted: Thursday, May 19, 2011 6:11 pm
GREENFIELD — Union City borrowed a page from Greenfield’s own book to beat the Yellowjackets for the Region 7A baseball championship.
Jumping on top early, getting timely hitting, clutch pitching and solid defense, the Tornadoes avenged two losses in the district tournament and earned host rights for Friday’s sectionals with a 4-3 upset of G’field in the regional finals Wednesday.
UC (24-7) will now host Region 8 runnerup Trinity Christian Academy (21-15), Friday evening at 6:30 with a berth in the Class A State Tournament at stake. TCA was a 13-6 loser to reigning 1A titleist Riverside Wednesday, and will be looking to secure its first ever spot in the state.
The Tornadoes, meanwhile, are seeking their first trip to the state tournament since 1995.
Union City and Greenfield seemed to swap roles from their previous two meetings in Wednesday’s regional title tilt.
The Yellowjackets (20-7) had jumped on the Twisters early in both of those games and then limited them to just one run combined with stellar pitching and solid defense while continuing to add to their advantage with opportunistic hitting.
On Wednesday, UC manufactured a run in the top of the first, using the talents of leadoff man Drake Parker, and then added to its lead with three straight two-out hits in the third by Camron Sherwood, Matthew Keathley and Caleb Long — with a fourth and ultimately game-deciding run coming in on a Greenfield error.
The miscue was one of four on the day for the usually-solid ’Jackets.
The Tornado defense, sometimes shaky during the most recent of their four meetings with G’field this spring, was instead flawless while handling chances on numerous hard-hit balls on Wednesday.
Rightfielder Tyler Steward saved two runs in the third with a sprawling two-out catch, and Long denied Peyton Page a home run in the fourth when he reached over the leftfield fence to snag a would-be dinger as highlight gems from the victory.
And certainly Wednes-day’s surprising result would not have been possible without the efforts of senior hurler Brandon Griffin.
Griffin, a reliever when the season began and a spot-starter later, was nothing short of magnificent while shutting down a Greenfield lineup that had lit up UC pitching for 17 runs in their last two meetings.
Griffin (4-1) dodged several trouble spots while toiling into the sixth inning, leaving after giving up two runs and four hits while walking two and striking out one.
Most notable, he and relievers Eric Moore and Parker combined to limit the ’Jackets to 2-for-13 hitting with runners in scoring position.
Union City skipper Jeremy Maddox said setting the tone with pressing play early was the key to the win.
“They’d jumped on us early the last couple of times we played, and we just wanted our guys to be aggressive when we had the opportunities,” said the coach who will lead his program into the sectionals for the second time in as many years Friday. “I think playing small ball and getting up early really made us relax and gave us some confidence.
“The two-out hits are something we preach all the time. The other big things were us making plays defensively, and then the guts that Brandon Griffin showed on the mound. He hadn’t been out there in a while, and he was really a bulldog when we gave him the ball. He was outstanding.”
Parker singled to start the game, stole second, went to third on a Cameron Powers sacrifice and came home on Sherwood’s ground ball out to short to put Union City up immediately 1-0.
The Tornadoes added to their lead in the third after turning a nifty 6-4-3 double-play that went from Powers-to-Clay Treece-to-Keathley in the bottom of the second.
Tyler Steward singled to open the frame — part of a run of five straight innings in which the Twisters put their leadoff man aboard. Steward came around to score on Sherwood’s two-out double just inside the third base bag, with courtesy runner Travis Rutland and Keathley then scoring on a RBI single by Long that was kicked in rightfield for a two-base error to make it 4-0.
The Yellowjackets finally got to Griffin in the fifth when Heath Crouse singled in two runs with two outs and the bases loaded to cut the difference in half.
After Moore escaped a two-on, one-out jam in the sixth without giving up a run, Parker came on in the seventh to close things out.
The sophomore lefty gave up a bloop double by Heath Crouse to open the inning and run-scoring single to Jacob Johnson with two outs to bring the winning run to the plate, but then fanned Peyton Page to notch his sixth save.
Crouse, who blanked UC 10-0 in his last outing in the district tournament, was chased in the fifth Wednesday and saw his record drop to 7-3.
Sherwood and Long each finished with two hits — Sherwood knocking in a pair of runs — to place the winners’ nine-hit attack.
Maddox believes the homefield edge will indeed be an advantage to his team in Friday’s sectionals.
“We’ve got a beautiful facility and I think our kids love playing there,” the coach said. “As for me, I believe anytime you don’t have to pack up and go somewhere else and can stay in a routine, it’s certainly an advantage for your team.”