MOUNT VERNON — An early lead by Moose wasn’t enough in the Babe Ruth City Tournament championship game on Friday night. Rotary scored three runs in the fourth and five in the fifth to take the title, 10-4, over Moose. The victory finished Rotary’s season with an 18-1 mark, and both the regular-season and tournament titles.
“This feels real good,” said Rotary manager David Luna. “These kids only lost one game all year. It took us about three or four innings to hit the ball, but we do that just about every game. We don’t always hit right away, but we do hit it well. We had a good season, and this was a great way to end it.”
Early on, it looked like Moose, coming out of the loser’s bracket, might be able to force a second championship game. Moose scored two runs in the top of the first and top of the second innings off Rotary starter Jayben Martin. That was all it got, however.
“We hadn’t beaten that team yet this year, and a lot of our pregame talk was about getting a win,” said Moose coach Bryan Ford. “We just wanted to go one inning at a time, and it seemed to be working early on. The wheels kind of came off defensively as we got into the later innings, but I thought our effort was great. We just couldn’t hang in there.”
Rotary scored two runs in the bottom of the first, and then went to ace Shawn Maxwell in the top of the third. Maxwell kept Moose off the board the rest of the way.
“This feels good,” said Maxwell. “We haven’t done real well the last few years, but this year we picked it up. ... I just tried to focus and stay strong. I knew our team was going to hit.”
Nathan Shuman got things going for Moose in the top of the first with a one-out walk. He took second on a wild pitch before Nick Rummel walked. Brandon Seese then followed with an RBI single. Brady Silliman hit into a fielder’s choice before Alec Workman singled back up the middle to score Rummel for the 2-0 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Tim Boyd started things off with a single to right. Cole Shoemaker followed with a single to put two runners on before Maxwell stepped in. Maxwell hit a hard shot to short, which was misplayed, allowing both runners to score. Martin reached on a fielder’s choice before the inning ended.
Moose picked up where it left off in the top of the second, getting a leadoff single from Eric McClain. McClain moved to second on a passed ball before Nathan Bolander walked. Both runners moved up on another passed ball before Kory Shackle drove them in with a single to right-center field. Shuman then singled before Martin got back-to-back pop-ups to end the inning.
Rotary went down 1-2-3 in the second inning, and had to play some defense over the next few innings. With Maxwell on the mound, Moose kept up its effort. It had its leadoff runner on base in each of the next three innings, but failed to capitalize each time. Maxwell set the next three batters down in the third and fifth innings, and with the aid of a double play, got out of trouble in the fourth.
“We were excited to see Shawn out on the mound, but he seemed to have his best stuff out there,” said Ford. “I thought we might be able to do something against him early. There in the fourth inning, we should have had two on, but we had a base running mistake. If we had just got a single here or there, the game might have been a little different. We might have been able to put a little more pressure on them.”
Meanwhile, Rotary was just getting warmed up at the plate. A pair of hits highlighted the third inning, but both runners were stranded after Moose starter Tim Rainer induced a flyout to end it. He wasn’t so lucky in the fourth inning, however.
Tyler Zeller, Jacob Bowers and Austin Pagani each hit one-out singles of Rainer, with Pagani’s driving in Zeller to make it a 4-3 game. Rotary wasn’t down, though, despite Moose recording out No. 2. Aaron Nixon hit a two-run single to left to put his team up after three innings.
“I think they stayed focused,” Luna said. “Everybody was on the same page, and knew what we had to do with our bats.”
Already having lost the lead, Rainer was chased from the game in the bottom of the fifth. Shoemaker and Maxwell each singled to lead off the inning, and Brandon Dobbs belted an RBI double of Rainer. That was his last batter as Workman took over on the mound. He, however, didn’t fare much better.
Martin greeted Workman with a two-run single to center, and Zeller and Bowers each singled. Bowers hit scored Martin to make it a 9-4 game. Pagani and Austin Heffelfinger each popped up for the first two outs of the inning, but Zeller came home on a delayed double steal to score the final run.
Maxwell set Moose down in order in the sixth inning, and Workman got out of trouble in the bottom of the inning, stranding two runners. Maxwell then did the same in the top of the seventh to seal the victory.
“This says a lot about this group,” said Luna. “My 15-year-olds stepped up all year, and we had a really good draft with our 13-year-olds. We had a good mix of players. We’ve been playing some good ball season. ... Moose has played us tough every game, but everybody has played us tough. Everybody gives us their best game.”
Moose finished as the runner-up in the regular season as well.
“This is the third year in a row we have been to the championship game,” said Ford. “We won it once, and last year we forced a second game, so for us to get back here is an incredible accomplishment.”
With the Babe Ruth Season officially over, several players are practicing in preparation for the All-Star season, which begins this weekend. Read Tuesday’s edition of the News for complete All-Star rosters.