Hickory Hornets 10-and-under wins Mid Atlantic title
Hornets battle back to win title
By Dave Conard
Spring City- Hickory Hornets manager Randy Spurlock took a vacation day from work on Monday in hopes that his 10-and under squad would still be playing in the Cal Ripken Babe Ruth Mid Atlantic regional hosted by Spring-Ford.
Spurlock never imagined in his wildest dreams that following a less than stellar pool play record of 1-3, he would and his nest of young Hornets would be hoisting the trophy Tuesday evening as the 2011 Mid Atlantic champions after defeating Delaware state champ Piedmont 9-6.
It seams ironic now that following 5-1 win over Manalapan on Sunday, the Hornets only pool victory, that all the Hickory players, coaches and fans could do to try to extend their season, was stay and cheer for Medford, the three time defending New Jersey champion who needed to either beat host Spring-Ford or score more than two runs to allow the Hornets to make the semi finals.
It was that same Medford team that Hickory eliminated with an 8-5 win on Tuesday to reach the championship game on a two RBI double by Trent Gast-Woodard in the fifth inning.
“We have told the kids all year, to not look behind us and keep moving forward,” said manager Randy Spurlock following Sunday’s win. “Until we are told we are out, we will keep battling. We need to keep our focus and put what happened in the past behind us. This is the time of these kids loves, they will never forget this experience.”
In the championship game, the Hornets found themselves trailing 1-0 in the third inning until Stelio Stakias ripped a two-out double to right center field driving in Josh Bogdan, two pitches later Stakias crossed the plate putting Hickory ahead 2-1 on an RBI single by Noah Homsher, giving starting pitcher Cameron Kalandros momentum as he re took the hill.
After seeing Piedmont post three runs in two at bats to carry a 4-2 lead after four complete and a conference on the mound, Spurlock chose to stick with his young hurler and called the troops together as they prepared to bat in the top half of the fifth inning.
In an a inning that will be talked about for years, Robert McHugh drew a one-out walk, followed by Jake Spurlock, who also worked a base on balls before a ground out, pushing the outcome of the season to the brink of extinction.
Jonah Einsig worked a walk after being down in the count one-and-two, setting the stage Trent Gast-Woodard who roped a 1-1 pitch to the wall in right center, clearing the bases and giving the Hornets a 5-4 lead.
“I was just looking to make good contact,” said Woodard. “He gave me a pitch up in the zone and I was able to hit it hard, I was a little nervous, but knew we needed to put the ball in play.”
“That was huge for us to get that two out hit,” said coach Ken Bogdan. “We say it all the time to the kids that baseball also teaches life lessons. It helps teach them how to deal with losses and how to handle success as well, these kids never stopped battling all tournament even when we had lost a couple of close games in which we didn’t hit the ball very well.”
The wheels fall off for Piedmont in the pitching department in the sixth inning as the Hornets scored four runs and caused Piedmont to use four hurlers in the final at bat.
Hickory right-hander Cam Kalandros, who worked all six innings for the Hornets, striking out five and allowing three earned runs, took care of business in the sixth as he forced three infield groundouts, following back-to back singles to start the frame and when Josh Bogdan squeezed the ball thrown by second basemen from Noah Homsher and stomped on the bag at first, the championship celebration got under way.
“I was a little nervous to start the game but more excited,” said Kalandros. “My four seamer was working pretty well, so I stayed with that most of the day when I needed a strike. This is awesome to think that we are the champions.”
“This is more than we could have ever imagined,” added coach Bogdan. “We set out at the beginning of the year trying to win states, since we lost last year in the final. Going to a regional and winning it was so far beyond our radar, we could never have imagined doing this, wow what a week.”
“I am so proud of our boys,’ added Spurlock. “We had a rough start to the tournament against some very good teams and needed help to qualify for the semis, but once we got it going offensively, the boys really came through with the big hits or plays when we needed them, This is unbelievable and we will never forget this weekend.”
Next up for Hickory is a berth in the Cal Ripken Babe Ruth 10-and-under World Series in Winchester Virginia next weekend as one of the top eight teams in the country.
Notes: Plans are already in the works to have Hickory visit Spring-Ford for a tournament in 2012 and Spring-Ford to travel to Hickory as well.