GUYS MILLS — Maplewood baseball coach Matt Crocker said his return to coaching was fueled by his desire to guide that program back to competitiveness.
That work seemed to pay off when they not only qualified for the District 10 Class AA playoffs, but Maplewood also got to host the first-round game at the Jake Boyle Memorial Field, its home the last five seasons.
Unfortunately for Crocker and company, their opponent was defending state champion Rocky Grove, and they showed their playoff experience banging out 14 hits while committing no field errors in a 13-1 win in a game that was called via the 10-run rule after five innings.
The loss ends the Tiger slate at 7-12 overall. Their 6-6 ledger in Region 4 got them the playoff nod, but MHS found itself down early to a RG team that entered the contest 10-8 overall and 4-6 in the tough Region 3. Maplewood at times had runners in scoring position, but couldn’t muster the big hit that could have kept things closer.
The Tigers also saw two close calls not go their way while giving up two infield singles along with a ball that went off the top of a RG player’s bat that landed just fair behind third base. MHS also saw a couple of playable grounders get by their infielders.
“Baseball is like that sometimes,” Crocker said.
After the Orioles sent nine to the plate for four runs in the opening canto, Cam Bienio opened the Tigers’ half of the frame with a walk and moved to second on Chris Hochstetler’s fielder’s choice. Then, Tiger J.D. McFadden was hit by a pitch in the ankle that was negated as the umpire ruled he didn’t do enough to avoid the pitch.
After a conference between Crocker and the home-plate umpire, McFadden eventually drew the walk, but didn’t stay on the bases with Noah Burk called in to pinch-run. Camden Mattocks then walked to load the bases, prompting RG into a pitching change. Bienio then scored on Tanner Carson’s ground out before the rally stalled.
The visitors added to the lead with two more in their half of the second and Maplewood again put runners on in the bottom of the canto on singles by Luke Marshall and Chris Hochstetler. Again, RG got a strikeout to end the threat, and the Orioles continued to hit the ball hard, testing the MHS defense.
RG went up 6-1 entering the fifth where again it appeared MHS was victim of a tough call. The Tigers appeared to have doubled up the Orioles on a fly out and throw to second, only to see the team called for fielder’s interference. That effectively took an out off the scoreboard and allowed RG to advance a runner across the plate.
That, along with two Tigers’ errors and three more hits, led to three more runs for Orioles, putting them up over the 10-run mark that set the stage for the short game.
The Orioles continue in their trek to defend their title and will meet the winner of the Wilmington-Slippery Rock contest.
Mattocks got the mound start for the Tigers and Rocky Grove coach Bill Wilson said that is the pitcher for whom he prepared.
“He’s a good, hard thrower,” Wilson said. “Our boys showed good discipline and swung hard. Maplewood may have crossed us up if they decided to send out a pitcher who doesn’t throw as hard. That’s happened to us this season.”
“I am not surprised coach Wilson had those guys ready to play,” Crocker said. “They showed they know how to play during the postseason.”
Ryan Hanna co-led the Orioles offense going 3-for-3, all doubles with his first-inning two-bagger plating two runs. Seth Wilson doubled to open the game and scored three times in a 3-for-4 effort, while Caden Toscano crossed scored three times as well. RG also got a 2-for-3 effort from No. 8 hitter Eli Moreland, who also tallied a first-inning, 2-RBI double.
Mattocks clubbed a double in the bottom of the fifth for the Tigers’ lone extra-base hit as MHS tallied a total of four safeties in the contest.
The game marked the last one on the Boyle field for Tiger seniors Bienio, Andy Gerow, Chris Hochstetler, Brad Roae, Tanner Carson, Alex Wellmon and Mattocks.
“I’ve coached these guys all four of their years and they are a special bunch,” Crocker said. “I never had to worry about anything off the field with them.”