If the East Holmes Little League 12U team had butterflies in their tournament opener on Saturday, June 28, versus Wooster, they disappeared pretty early on.
Tim Yoder’s squad came out of their dugout at Berlin Elementary swinging their bats and never stopped. East Holmes scored a run in the bottom of the first, then three more in the second, then exploded for eight more in the bottom of the third to zoom to a 12-0 victory, giving them a leg up on Wooster in pool play.
In reality, Sam Raber gave East Holmes an early lift right out of the gate, getting a come-backer and striking out the next two Wooster hitters in the top of the first.
Then, with one out, Ben Chupp singled and came around to score on Raber’s single to make it 1-0 after one.
Raber went right back to work in the top of the second, allowing the lone hit he would surrender in his three innings of work to William Gastier, before striking out the final two batters to retire the side.
East Holmes then scored three more in the bottom. Stevie Beachy led off with one of his three hits on the night, and Kyle Mast walked, before nine hitter Dustin Kurtz unleashed a rousing double off Wooster starter Garrett Fleming to score Beachy. Mast would then come around to score on a ground out by Cameron Keim, and Andy Miller would drive in Kurtz with a single.
Raber blazed through the third, striking out two for the third straight inning, and East Holmes came in and went to work with the bats, with Ryan Aleshire starting and ending the eight run barrage.
Aleshire began the inning with a single up the middle and Ryan Hershberger would follow suit. Beachy then singled in a run, with both runners advancing to second and third on the throw home. Mast then shot a ball through the hole at second, plating two more to make it a 7-0 ball game. Kurtz singled, and Keim produced a run-scoring fielder’s choice. Now back at the top, Andy Miller hit a screaming double, and after an error and a strike out, Aleshire finished what he started, hammering a three-run home run to dead center to end the scoring.
Aleshire then took the mound and ended the game, allowing a hit to Jarret Varner and a walk before striking out two to end the game in four innings on the one-run rule.
Wooster coach Dan Snyder was impressed with the aggressive approach taken by the East Holmes hitters, and said that they obviously felt pretty comfortable in the batter’s box.
“That team came to hit, they earned it,” said Snyder of East Holmes. “This is the first game. It’s one game. We are going to go home and get better. It’s tough to take one on the chin, but they are a good baseball team. Their pitcher was great, and they put the ball in play, and when you do that good things happen.”
In just three innings of offense, East Holmes managed to bang out 16 hits, with Miller, Aleshire, Hershberger and Kurtz all collecting two hits to go with Beachy’s three.
For East Holmes, with a solid effort at both the plate and the mound, it was a nearly perfect way to open the tournament and build some confidence moving forward, especially since it was missing three players who were at church camp.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better way to start the all-star tournament,” said Yoder of his team’s effort. “We talked about being aggressive, and they really came through. We talked about getting the first good pitch and putting a good swing on it, and they did that tonight.
“It was up and down the line-up, and when seven, eight and nine are hitting the baseball, it makes a huge difference, and we feel confident that we can put these kids anywhere in the line-up and they will hit.”
Lost in all of the hitting hoopla was Raber’s performance on the mound, the big righty allowing just the one hit while striking out six and walking none in his three innings stint. But more importantly, he set the tone to begin the game with a superb first inning.
“Sam was Sam,” said Yoder. “One of the reasons we wanted Sam to start this game is because he throws strikes. He challenges hitters. That is what he brought tonight.”
Yoder said he would have liked to play six innings just to get kids more at bats and playing together, but when the tie-breaker is runs allowed, he isn’t going to complain with the shut-out in four.
However, based on early results, team cohesiveness is not going to be an issue with this group.
Yoder said they talked earlier in the week, and he asked the kids if they cared where they played. The general consensus was, they were all willing to play wherever they needed to play to make the team better.
“It’s an unselfish group,” said Yoder. “I sense a real willingness in them to do what is best for the team. That to me is a big key. They are buying into the team concept.”
As for Snyder’s squad, it’s just a matter of letting this one go, and focusing on playing their game in their second game.
“We’re not ashamed, we just got beat by a better team today,” said Snyder. “We’ll show up the next game. It’s 0-1 in the standings, that’s all it is. That’s the way we have to look at it. If we had won we’d just be 1-0.”
Published: June 30, 2012