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Valley goes small to earn big win

July 26, 2005|by CHRIS CARTER /Staff Correspondent

FREDERICK, Md. - Valley Little League manager Tim Hartsock didn't know how his team would respond after suffering its first loss of the postseason on Saturday.

So Hartsock went back to the brand of baseball that his team knows. The brand that guided Valley to the Maryland State Tournament in the first place: Small ball.

Valley sacrificed its way around the basepaths, played heads-up defense and made the most of its opportunities in knocking off Easton 4-2 in losers' bracket action Monday at Robert B. Staley Stadium.

"We were a little worried about how they would react after losing," Hartsock said of the 10-1 loss to Elkton in the tournament's opening round. "In that game, we got away from the way we like to play, so we had an early practice Sunday morning worked on the things that got us here."

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Valley will have a shot to avenge the loss to Elkton, which beat Waldorf 8-5 Monday, in the losers' bracket semifinal tonight at 6.

Valley's return to small ball was shown early. Zane Garver led off the game with a double and was moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Robby Hogue. Garver was stranded at third, but it was evident that Valley had gone back to its old game plan.

Despite returning to its roots, Valley fell behind in the bottom of the first. Leadoff batter Justus Mills doubled and stole third. Mills scored on a sacrifice fly by Stephen Seufert to take the early 1-0 lead.

After both teams went down in order in the second inning, Valley came back in the third.

With one out, Jack Schwartz singled up the middle. Garver followed with a ground ball to third base that was mishandled, allowing both runners to reach safely.

On the next pitch, Hogue dropped down his second bunt. Easton went for the force out at third base, but the throw sailed wide. The ball rolled past the left fielder, who was backing up the throw, allowing both Schwartz and Garver to round the bases, giving Valley a 2-1 lead.

Hogue later scored on a sacrifice fly by Ben Daniels for a 3-1 lead.

"We knew that every run was going to be huge, so we went for as many as we could," Hartsock said. "(Easton) made a couple of mistakes and we took advantage."

Valley tacked on another run in the fifth on an RBI single by Ryne Willard to up its lead to 4-1.

Meanwhile, Daniels, Valley starting pitcher, settled in and kept Easton from cutting into the lead. After the first-inning run, Daniels put a runner on third in the third and fifth innings, but escaped trouble both times.

"I usually like to bring him in later in the game because nothing bothers him," Hartsock said. "He might give up a run or two, but it just makes him mad and he comes right back to get an out."

Daniels gave up a walk and a hit in the seventh, leading Hartsock to bring in Willard to close the game. Easton scored on a passed ball, but Willard shut the door with a called third strike to end the game.

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