News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local Interest

July 20, 2012

Sullivan opens Legion sectional with victory

TERRE HAUTE — Sullivan Post 139 got three gift runs in the bottom of the third inning Thursday evening and was able to coast most of the way after that in American Legion baseball sectional play at Jennings Field, finally holding off Washington’s Freedom Post 120 by a 6-4 score.

The reward for Sullivan is a game at 7 p.m. today against tournament host Wayne Newton Post 346, the winner going straight to Sunday’s championship round. Washington will return to Terre Haute North on Saturday to play the loser of today’s game.

Unheralded heroes for Sullivan on Thursday were its infielders. Shortstop Cam Kuppler ranged far to his left to make a third-out play in the top of the first with two runners on base, second baseman Tucker Smith started a second-inning double play with Kuppler in the middle, and third baseman Tanner Butler was spectacular on a couple of occasions.

“We’re pretty solid when we don’t make any errors,” Sullivan manager Craig Klitz said afterward.

“We tell the kids, ‘Do the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves.’ ”

Kuppler’s first-inning play kept Washington off the scoreboard, and Sullivan got the lead for good in the bottom of the inning when Brock Dowell singled, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Bryce Bement.

Butler made a spectacular back-hand stop to rob Washington’s Bailey White leading off the second inning, and Trevor Claridge’s single was wiped out by the Smith-Kuppler double-play combination. Pitcher Nolan Kinnett breezed through the top of the third, and then got a little more offensive cushion.

Collin Harding reached on an error to start the Sullivan rally, hustling all the way to second base after his grounder was waved at by a Washington infielder. Butler grounded to the mound and Harding was seemingly caught off base, but got back to second in time. Bement was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and walks to Kuppler, Kyler Fulford and Cam McNeely brought in the three runs without Sullivan getting a hit.

Butler had another diving stop for an out in the top of the sixth — “He plays a mean hot corner,” Klitz said — which enabled Kinnett to pitch around the two hits that followed.

Finally in the top of the seventh, Washington broke through when White singled, Claridge brought him home with a triple to right-center and Claridge scored on a passed ball. With two on and two out, however, Butler came to the mound in relief and got out of the inning.

Sullivan, held in check three innings by reliever Bryce Wilz, got those runs back immediately in the bottom of the seventh. Bement was hit by a pitch again, Kuppler beat out a bunt and Fulford walked to load the bases, and a single by McNeely and a sacrifice fly by Jacob Hauger made it 6-2.

Butler wasn’t threatened until he issued his second walk of the inning with two out in the top of the ninth. An RBI single by Jalen Hyde and a run-scoring wild pitch brought in two runs and brought the tying run to the plate, but Hauger fielded a grounder for the final out.

“It’s a sectional win, a big win for us,” Klitz said.

“We came up short,” said manager Jeff Truelove of Washington. “Typical, that’s us of late. One bad inning … the Wilz kid did a great job [in relief], we’ve just got to get the hits when we need it, and we didn’t get them.”

Freedom Post 120 still needs just one victory to reach the championship round, however.

“I’ve still got a couple [of pitchers] in the bag,” Truelove noted.

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