Bled Sox rally for WLL Minor Level crown
BRUCE MORGAN Record Express Sports Editor
, Staff Writer
It was only fitting that the Warwick Bled Sox found themselves trailing at the end of the first inning last Tuesday, June 11.
After all, they were also behind in the opening rounds of the playoffs, as well.
The Bled Sox ultimately came back to win both of those games.
And they did again with the Warwick Little League Minor Level championship at stake, rallying to defeat the Warwick Raptors 5-4 at the Wilbur complex in Lititz.
After tying the game with two runs in the fourth inning, the Bled Sox pushed across the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth and then held on for the title-clinching victory.
"I’m extremely proud," Bled Sox skipper Clifton Shanklin said. "They were a great group of kids all year. They came together, they had fun playing with each other. All three tournament games, we went down in the first inning and they just never gave up. They fought back and fought back. It was unbelievable."
The Bled Sox, wearing one red sock and one black sock, finished their season 15-1. The Raptors suffered an 11-6 loss to them in the first game of the season, but they made huge strides in the following weeks.
"I tip my hat to that (Raptors) team," Shanklin said. "They improved a lot since the beginning of the year. The championship was a good game."
Revenge was on the the Raptors’ mind as they took a 3-0 lead in the top of the first inning off of Bled Sox starting pitcher Chance Montgomery. Luke Shreiner and AJ Germaine worked back-to-back walks and scored on Kyle Sapovchak’s two-run double to left-center. Sapovchak later scored on a wild pitch.
"I think our team surprised them in the first inning by getting three," Raptors’ skipper Andy Germaine said. "(The Bled Sox) lost one game this year, so for us to hold this team to five runs … a lot of it had to do with pitching. Luke Shreiner threw a great game and AJ (Germaine) threw out two guys stealing third and one guy stealing home. So there was definitely some strong defense going on."
Shreiner took a tough-luck no-decision in the game, allowing just two runs in three innings while recording eight strikeouts.
But Montgomery helped his own cause in the bottom of the first, slugging a solo home run to left field off of starting pitcher Shreiner to get the Bled Sox on the board.
"They came out a little flat, they didn’t have a lot of energy," Shanklin said, "and I just pulled them in after the first inning and I said, ‘You guys have been right here (trailing) the last two games. so let’s just keep fighting and chipping away.’ That home run in the bottom of the first was big. It kinda sparked them and got them going a little bit. Chance is a hard-nosed kid. He’s all-out all the time. He has a great motor."
The Bled Sox, who won their first two playoff games by scores of 10-8 and 11-6, continued to chip away in the bottom of the second inning, as Josh Frank walked and scored on Bryce Pfeiff’s RBI single.
But in the top of the third, Tyler Lamb restored the Raptors’ two-run lead, smashing a home run to left field to put his team up 4-2.
Unfortunately for the Raptors, however, an error in the bottom of the frame proved costly. After Isaiah Lapp singled, Frank ripped a shot to the hot corner which Layne Longenecker fielded. But the Raptors didn’t cover second base, and Lapp scored when the throw went into right field. Frank later stole home to tie the game at 4-all.
"It was 4-2 (going into the inning) and that whole rally took place with two outs," Germaine said. "We got the second out and then it just sort of unraveled there."
The Bled Sox proceeded to load the bases, but Raptors’ relief pitcher Brayden Kahler ended the threat with a strikeout.
"It was a lot of work, I’d say, by both teams to score in this game," Germaine said. "We got the three in the first inning, but then only got one more after that. Of the five they got, I think four were contested at home, where we had a chance to get them."
Montgomery and Pfeiff combined for eight K’s in four innings, and then behind Isaiah Lapp, the Bled Sox had a shutdown inning in the top of the fifth. From there, they broke the tie in the bottom of the frame. Josiah Lapp beat out an infield single and eventually scored on a wild pitch to put the Bled Sox up 5-4.
From there, winning pitcher Isaiah Lapp pitched the second of his two shutout innings, retiring the Raptors in order, with two K’s, to put the win in the books for the Bled Sox.
"I was saving (Isaiah) for the end," Shanklin said. "He and Bryce have been my top two pitchers all year. Bryce came in and came up big, he looked pretty good. And Isaiah is a tough kid. Smooth delivery, he just makes it effortless out there. Good player."
Effort wasn’t lacking for the Raptors this season, as they finished at 8-4-1 while showing significant improvement from their first practice in March.
"Extremely proud," Germaine said of his players. "I told them that we couldn’t have asked more of them in that playoff run, especially in the championship game. We told them right after the game that there was nothing to be upset about. Most of the playoff games, the (scores) were in the teens, so for the final to be 5-4 … it was well-played by both teams. Lots of plays made in the field, most of the pitchers that were in there threw strikes."
More BLED SOX, page B-10