A potent offense and a strong defense propelled the Coventry Babe Ruth 13-year-old all-star team to the state and New England titles.
The team reached Thursday’s World Series semifinal against Lawrenceburg, Tenn. using the same formula, but Coventry’s offense and defense struggled in the most important game of the summer.
Lawrenceburg lefty Ryan Weathers, son of former Major Leaguer David Weathers, and Lance Pope held Coventry to its lowest run total of the all-star season, while two errors handed the Southeast champions four unearned runs in a 5-4 Coventry loss Friday night in Williston, N.D.
“That was a tough one,.” Coventry coach Mark Barter said. “There were a couple of errors that we don’t normally make but it is what it is. We still finished third in the country and a lot of teams would’ve liked to have been here. We’re disappointed, but I told the kids to hold their heads up high.”
Coventry, thanks to runs from Nick D’Ambra, Joey Barter and Cam Reid, entered the bottom of the fourth inning with a 4-1 advantage. Coventry starter Jarrad Grossguth, after a tough first inning, set down Lawrenceburg in order in the second and third inning, but he struggled in the fourth.
Pope hit a one-out single and moved to third on a double down the left-field line by Sam Crane. Kyle Brown replaced Grossguth and induced a ground out to Manny Bjorklund to keep a run from scoring.
The inning should’ve ended when Kendall Franklin lofted a fly ball to right-center field, but the ball was dropped and Pope and Crane came around to score to tie the game. Ben Staggs scored Franklin with an infield single down the third-base line to give Tennessee the lead.
“If we get out of the bottom of the fourth at 3-1, I think we win that game,” Barter said. “It was just a tough situation. I think the pressure got to the kids a little bit, but I’m proud as hell of these kids. They gave us everything they had in every game we played.”
Brown was let down by his defense again in the next inning as Weathers hit a grounder to the left side, but Bjorklund and Grossguth didn’t communicate and Weathers reached on a bad throw. The pitcher scored on a single by Crane.
Weathers set down the first two Coventry batters in the sixth inning, but he didn’t finish the inning on the mound. Brown, who was 3-for-3 with two doubles, doubled to left and then scored on a booming double to left by Steve Verrier. Josh Andrade followed with a fly out to center.
“The lefties had an easier time against (Weathers) than the righties,” Barter said. “He was hitting the outside of the plate and our lefties were seeing the ball well and taking good swings. Kyle’s been locked in for pretty much the whole tournament. I wasn’t surprised he was hitting him.”
Pope had no trouble in the seventh inning, forcing Colin Sutyla to ground out before striking out Barter and D’Ambra to end the game.
Weathers dominated Williston in his first start of the tournament, but he hit turbulence early in Friday’s game. D’Ambra singled to left to start the game and then Barter doubled down the right-field line to put two runners in scoring position for Grossguth, who hit a sacrifice fly to right.
Barter scored on a wild pitch after Reid flew out to right field. The 3-4-5 combination of Grossguth, Reid and Bjorklund was a combined 0-for-7 with two strikeouts.
Grossguth, who won his first start in the tournament Monday, struggled in the first innings. Staggs singled and then Jacob Hallmark and Weathers walked. Grossguth managed to get out of the inning allowing just one run – a sacrifice fly by Jacob Laws.
Grossguth and Weathers dominated the next two innings before Coventry took advantage of an error in the fourth inning to add another run.
Reid led off the inning with a ground ball, which was misplayed by Franklin at first. Following a bunt by Bjorklund, which moved pinch runner Mike DiPrete into scoring position, Brown doubled to left field to score DiPrete.
Lawrenceburg took its first lead with three unearned runs in its half of the fourth and added an insurance run in the fifth. The Tennessee team loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but reliever Brendan Organ induced a 1-2-3 double play off the bat of Weather to keep Coventry’s deficit at one.
Barter said Coventry is scheduled to return to the Coventry Community Center between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 Saturday night to finish up their fantastic summer voyage.