The Braves' Tom Aaron races to first base, beating the throw, after getting a hit down the third base line in Tuesday night's opening game of the Twin County playoffs against Spring City.
The Braves opened the Twin County playoffs with a 4-3 win over Spring City on Tuesday night at Bonekemper Field by taking advantage of nine walks, two wild pitches, two passed balls and a gritty complete game performance by pitcher Levi Stoudt.
Stoudt threw 109 pitches in the oppressive heat but managed to escape with only two walks in the game while allowing just two hits over the last four innings.
“He was working the zone low, which is the type of pitcher he is, but that strike wasn’t there for him tonight, so he had to come a little bit out of his comfort zone and start bringing the ball up a little bit. He pitched a game he’s not used to pitching. But he had to adapt to what the umpire was calling, and he adjusted,” explained coach Perry Breyer.
Spring City grabbed a first-inning lead against Stoudt on an RBI ground out to short by Jeremiah Ndjali. First baseman Erik Stalford made an outstanding pick on Jake Breyer’s low throw or the inning might have been worse.
In the bottom of the first, Josh Fell drew a bases-loaded walk to knot the score at one.
But the visitors bounced back with two more in the third.
Owen Gulati led off the inning with a bouncing single up the middle, stole second and went to third when Drew Skrocki’s bunt down the third base line went unfielded. The next hitter, Zach Wojcik, rolled a groundball through the vacated second base hole on a hit and run to score Gulati and send Skrocki to third.
With Ndjali at the plate, Wojcik took off for second, and catcher Grant Templeton’s throw bounced into centerfield, allowing Skrocki to score for a 3-1 lead.
Stoudt escaped further trouble with two strikeouts and another critical pick by Stalford on a throw from third baseman Tom Aaron.
“Our fielders have confidence in him,” Breyer said of Stalford. “When they get a ball hit in the hole, they know they can let loose. They know if they throw it a little erratic that he’s going to give it a hundred percent to dig it out for them.”
Stalford also made the Braves’ biggest offensive contribution of the night.
The Braves had answered back with a run in the bottom of the third, using two hits and two walks to cut the deficit.
In the fourth, Mike Felix and Templeton drew two more walks from Spring City reliever Jake Zoller. After both runners moved up on a wild pitch, Stalford laced a line drive double to right to give the Braves the lead for good.
Stoudt, meanwhile, pitched into and out of trouble. Aaron helped him out in the sixth by fielding a hard one-hopper off the bat of Zach Wedemeyer and firing a strike to Templeton at the plate to mow down the tying run.
In the seventh, Stoudt had his only 1-2-3 inning of the night.
“I felt all my pitches were working,” Stoudt said after the game. “[The umpire] was kind of pinching me at the knees in the strike zone, but I got it over, and my defense played good.”
The young righthander finished the night with six strikeouts and scattered seven hits, three by Wojcik.
By virtue of their first-place finish in the league, the Braves are already assured of a spot in next week’s regionals, but that fact has not affected the psyche of the team for the playoffs, which run through Friday night.
“They want to win the league playoffs. They’re all out,” said Breyer.