SPRINGFIELD – Albany coach Gabe Woods picked up the ‘chaos on the basepaths’ approach to baseball during his time as a player at Southeastern, and it paid off for his Hornets in their game against Springfield.
DJ Brumfield scored the go-ahead run on Joey Smith’s fielder’s choice in the top of the sixth inning, and the Hornets broke the game open with a five-run seventh in an 8-2 win Friday at Bulldog Park as part of the Doyle Tournament.
“We got a couple of hits early, but then the bats kind of slowed down, and when they did, we had to find another way to produce,” Woods said after Springfield' pitching held the Hornets to four hits. “The baserunning turned out to be the weapon of choice.”
Springfield coach Chris Blanchard tipped his hat to the Hornets’ execution on the base paths after Albany scored three runs on three wild pitches during the seventh inning.
“It was a snowball effect,” Blanchard said. “We couldn’t stop it. Gabe does a great job teaching the game, and they do a great job of executing what he asks. In cases like that, we’ve got to either try to get an out or just stop the momentum – stop the bleeding. Once the dam burst, it burst.”
With the score knotted at 2-2 in the top of the sixth, Brumfield led off with a walk and moved to third on Brock Bankston’s single to right-center.
Smith grounded into a fielder’s choice at third, and Brumfield scored when the Bulldogs couldn’t make a throw after Bankston was tagged out at second.
“I’m just trying to get that run in – use the right side of the field to my advantage,” Smith said after going 2-for-4 with two RBIs. “(I want to) just do anything I can do to help the team out in situations like that. In a big game like this, it’s huge for us.”
Woods said the play worked perfectly.
“That’s kind of our thing,” Woods said. “At any bag, we’re looking for the next bag. We’re trying to hunt the next bag. If a guy kicks a baseball, we’re trying to what we call ‘stay on green’. DJ did a good job of it. He rounded the bag. He saw the guy drop it. He took off. It was exactly what we wanted to do in that situation.”
The Bulldogs (3-10) turned a 6-4-3 double play to get out of the inning, backing starter Bryce Vittorio, who struck out seven while giving up three hits. He gave way to Zac Wild with two runners on an no outs in the top of the seventh.
“The inside fastball (was working),” Vittorio said. “I started to dial in, and it started working for me.”
Albany (8-7) padded the lead in the top of the seventh after Donovan Giamalva led off with a double down the third-base line and later scored on a throwing error on an Albany steal of second base, making the score 4-2.
Stephen Kuhn and Slade Bankston later scored on wild pitches, Smith had run-scoring single, and the Hornets added another run on a wild pitch for the final margin.
“One pitch here or there, if we get an out instead of a wild pitch, it’s a different inning, but they did a great job putting pressure on us, and we didn’t handle it,” Blanchard said.
The Hornets got rolling early, loading the bases in the top of the first. Slade Bankston reached on an error, Brock Bankston was hit by a pitch, and Smith singled past second.
Acey Martin’s fielder’s choice to second scored the game’s first run, and Woods sent Brock Bankston, who slid in at the plate, giving the Hornets a 2-0 lead.
“We’re trying to put pressure on teams,” Woods said of sending Bankston. “We’re trying to make them make plays. It’s a high-risk, high-reward, and sometimes you get popped, sometimes you don’t. Today it seemed to work out for us.”
The Bulldogs got a one-out single from Will Taylor in the bottom of the second, but he was tagged out in a rundown, and Kendall Stanga grounded to short to end the inning.
Brumfield drew a one-out walk in the top of the third, but Brock Bankston grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Springfield picked up a run in the bottom of the fourth when Vittorio led off with a walk, moved to second on an error, stole third and scored on Wild’s grounder to short, cutting the lead to 2-1.
Slayden Lyles ripped a two-out single to right field, and Taylor walked, but Kendall Stanga nailed a shot to third, which Martin snagged and tagged the bag at third for the final out of the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Bulldogs got a one-out single from Stanga and a walk to Trevor Freeman before Vittorio grounded into a fielder’s choice at short.
Vittorio moved to second on fielder’s indifference before Wild’s single past third tied the game at 2-2, and Vittorio was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
“We put a few bats together, scored one or two, had a chance to score the second one, but the guy made a great play from left and threw the guy out,” Blanchard said. “Tie game, I’m going to send him just to see if he can make a play, and the kid made a play, so hat’s off to him.”
Reid Rayborn got the win, giving up four hits, two runs and walking four in five innings. Micah Cleveland worked the final two innings, giving up one hit.
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