Oxford, AL – Choccolocco Monsters beat rain, Gwinnett Astros to score second SBL victory
Choccolocco 7, Gwinnett 6; 8 inns., rain
Gainesville 3, Columbus 2
Atlanta Blues at Alpharetta
Brookhaven at Atlanta Crackers
By Al Muskewitz
After a truly forgettable series opener Monday night, manager Steve Gillispie was looking for his Choccolocco Monsters to come back with a new attitude and approach. He could tell there was something different the minute he walked on the field.
The Monsters grabbed the early lead and when they did fall behind battled back to regain the lead. Eventually, they beat the rain and the Gwinnett Astros 7-6 for their second come-from-behind win of their inaugural Sunbelt Baseball League season.
They extended their lead to 10-6 in the ninth with help from a two-run single by Brennan McCullough. But all those stats were erased when the game was called with one out in the bottom of the inning because of weather and reverted back to the last full inning.
Dom Scavone scored what proved to be the winning run when he raced home on a two-out wild pitch in the eighth inning and relievers Harris Burns and Daniel Swatek made it stand.
“When we moved the game up to 6 o’clock (to beat the rain), this is baseball camp week at my school and with Atlanta traffic and all I couldn’t get there til about 5:30,” Gillispie said. “But from the minute I walked in there was a focus, there was an attitude, there was an energy. It was a squirrelly day just like Monday was, but today they were focused, they were prepared.
“The approach to the game was the best of the year and it mostly is a credit to the guys on the team. I didn’t have a big rah-rah speech last night. I didn’t have a big rah-rah speech pre-game today. We just said what was needed to be said. An aspect of summer ball is a lot of it gets put on players as individuals. It really does emulate pro ball in that way..”
The Monsters were no-hit and run-ruled in the series opener, but showed spunk from the get-go. Newcomer Brandon Prince hit a leadoff double, stole third and scored the game’s first run on a double steal with Wyatt Fooks.
Prince joined the team Monday after Georgia Tech was eliminated in the Knoxville Regional, but didn’t get in the game. He started at shortstop Wednesday night.
Another newcomer kept the Astros’ bats silent. Jake Peppers threw three shutout innings, facing just nine batters and striking out four. The right-hander from Jacksonville State is headed to the Cape Cod League Monday, but wanted to pitch for the Monsters once before leaving. He will be under contract with the Monsters if he returns.
A.J. Jarrell followed Peppers in his first appearance since taking a shot off the knee cap in his Saturday start at Columbus. He had some tough luck in the fifth inning when the Astros scored all their runs, but pitched clean innings on either side of it.
Josh Cooper’s two-run single in the sixth made it 6-4 and the Monsters used their speed on the base paths to tie the game in the seventh.
Catcher Jake Spivey opened the inning with a walk and stole second and third. Prince was hit by a pitch and stole second. Both runners scored to tie the game on Fooks’ chopper up the middle.
The Monsters had 11 stolen bases in the game. They would have had 13 if the ninth inning hadn’t been washed out. Their first run and what would have been their last run both scored on double steals.
They’re currently tied for second in the league in stolen bases (20), but both teams ahead of them have played one more game.
“If you’re capable of doing something, you need to do it,” Gillispie said. “If you can strike guys out, you need to strike guys out. If you can knock runners in, you need to knock runners in. the things that you can do, you need to go ahead and do.
“That’s one thing we felt we could do. We’ve got guys who can run. And I do think the bats are going to keep getting better. We have some skill with some guys who swing the bat, but they’re athletic. We really don’t have anybody I’d describe as a slug on the base paths. Everybody’s going to be able to run and that helps our hitters.”
The Monsters return to Choccolocco Park Friday for a two-game home stand with the Gainesville Gol’Diggers, managed by former big-leaguer Micah Owings. They’re expected to start Will Griffith (0-0, 3.37) and 6-foot-6 Garrett Telaga (0-0, 4.50).
Choccolocco 100 012 21 — 10 9 1
Gwinnett 000 060 00 — 6 7 3
WP: Harris Burns (1-0). LP: Jeffrey Coy Martin (0-1). 2B: Brandon Prince (C), Bryson Stripling (G). 3B: Elgin Bennett (G) [*** read more]
Sunbelt Baseball League standings
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