Offensive surge powers Eastlake 15Us to victory
July 8, 2014
By Neil Pierson
For the Eastlake Baseball Club’s Single-A American Legion team, its July 2 nonleague outing against Olympic served dual purposes.
Eastlake’s 15-and-under squad did a lot of positive things. It collected 12 hits, capitalized on 13 walks and hit batters, and overwhelmed Olympic in a 16-7 victory at the Eastlake High School field.
But there were also plenty of things to improve upon, the players and head coach Russell Bair indicated.
“I think we can be better in the dugout,” said Ben Lathwell, who will be entering ninth grade this fall. “Like, we were sitting on the bench and not cheering each other on. We can get into the game and … not be mosey and lazy in the dugout.”
Free passes were also an issue for Eastlake, as pitchers Branden Stevenson, Bryce Freshour and Cole Brinkman combined to walk eight Olympic hitters, and hit two others.
“Our guys, for the most part, throw pretty good,” Bair said. “I think today’s heat just got to them a little bit. But when they’re throwing strikes and the defense plays solid behind them, you can’t ask for much more than that.”
Eastlake overcame their mistakes with a potent offense, scoring in every inning.
After Olympic took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Eastlake responded with three runs in its half, a rally keyed by Lucas Hansell’s RBI single and a throwing error.
Patrick Palmer’s long triple led to another run in the second inning, putting Eastlake up 4-2. Palmer helped lead his team’s attack, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk, an RBI and two runs scored.
He said the team had good approaches at the plate.
“We had really good at-bats,” Palmer said. “We didn’t really watch the third (strike) a lot. We just actually came ready to play today.”
In the third inning, Eastlake stretched its lead to 10-2, piling up six runs on six hits. Palmer, Brinkman and Luke Scholz all had RBI hits during the rally.
Olympic, however, got things going after Freshour relieved Stevenson in the fourth inning. They scored five times on five hits, pulling within 10-7.
They didn’t score again.
Freshour and Brinkman wriggled out of trouble a couple times, stranding six batters in the last three innings. Brinkman took over in the sixth with a two-on, one-out situation and struck out Olympic’s Kolby Johnson and Griffin Lax.
In the seventh, after Olympic had loaded the bases, Brinkman caught Nathaniel Ridgeway looking at the third strike to end the game.
By that time, too, Eastlake had built another big cushion, using a Reid Pierzchalski RBI double in the fifth and an RBI triple from Scholz in the sixth.
“It’s really satisfying – our boys have been hitting the ball real well and playing solid defense,” Bair said. “Our pitchers are doing exactly what we ask, so it’s been pretty great.”
Many of the players on the Single-A Legion team have finished their freshman year at Eastlake, and could challenge for varsity time in 2015 if they continue to improve. For Lathwell and Palmer, there’s plenty of work to do during the summer.
“One of my goals is to maybe get better with my hitting and my stance,” Lathwell said, “and how I field – get better in the infield and in the outfield.”
Palmer said he needs to hit the gym and lift weights more often.
“I’m not really the biggest kid on the field,” he said.
There’s a sense of excitement and purpose filtering through the Eastlake baseball community, due in large part to the high-school varsity winning its first conference title this spring, and last summer’s Little League team that reached the World Series.
Bair credits Eastlake High School coach Kevin Agnew, too.
“The hype around our program is just great,” Bair said. “Agnew has done an incredible job getting parents involved, getting parents to buy in, kids to buy in. We’ve got a great coaching staff through our whole program, and so it’s just been unbelievable.”