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By JOSH CLAYWELL firstname.lastname@example.org
ELIZABETHTOWN — After striking out in his first two official at-bats, Aundre Sanders wanted to erase those memories.
With his team clinging to a three-run lead in the top of the fifth inning on Saturday, Sanders did just that at Sonny Chaput Field.
With two outs, Sanders hit a solo home run to left-center field to give the Benton Harbor (Mich.) All-Stars a more-than-comfortable lead, and Benton Harbor went on to eliminate Springfield, Ohio, 11-5 in the first elimination game of the Cal Ripken Ohio Valley Regional Tournament.
The game featured 16 walks and 18 stolen bases and took just over two hours to complete.
Benton Harbor struck first in the top of the first. Sanders walked, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch for a 1-0 lead.
Springfield answered in its half of the inning as Jacob Ragland walked, moved to second on a balk, stole third and scored on a sacrifice bunt by Timmy Cochran.
Benton Harbor took the lead for good in the next inning. Kenneth Britt walked, moved to second on a groundout, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored when Quentin Erby reached on an error. Erby stole second, advanced to third on a passed ball and scored on a single by Ronald Bickham.
Phillip Napier, who walked, came around to score on a single by Anderson Burton.
Springfield wasted a scoring opportunity in the bottom half of the inning. With one on and two out, Josh Wright singled and Scott Lockard walked to load the bases. But Sanders got Cochran to ground out to end the threat.
Benton Harbor tacked on two more runs in the third. Britt walked, advanced to second on an error, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Devin Alexander. Alexander moved to second on a balk, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly by Napier.
Springfield cut its deficit to 6-3 in the bottom of the inning. Greg Bacon was hit by a pitch, stole second and third and scored on a groundout by Jaeden Bailey. With Bacon on second, Jaelin Williams walked, moved to second when Bacon stole third, moved to third on Bailey’s ground out and scored on a balk.
Benton Harbor took a 7-3 lead in the top of the fourth as Ronnell Gillespie reached third on a two-base error and scored on Burton’s groundout.
After Sanders’ homer in the top half of the fifth, Springfield cut into the deficit again. With one out, Bacon walked, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Stefanie Davis’ groundout.
Benton Harbor pulled away in the next inning. Trevin Alexander singled, stole second, moved to third when Britt reached on an error and scored on a balk. Britt, who stole second and moved to third on the balk, scored on Brandon Brown’s groundout. Devin Alexander, who was hit by a pitch, scored the final run on a wild pitch.
Springfield scored its final run in the bottom of the sixth as William Strader reached on an error, stole second and third and scored on Wright’s groundout.
BENTON HARBOR 11, SPRINGFIELD 4
R H E
Benton Harbor 132 113 11 9 1
Springfield 102 010 4 1 4
Aundre Sanders, Devin Alexander (4) and Raymone Hayden, Trevin Alexander (3). Emanuel Jones, Tristan Davis (2), Jaelin Williams (4), Greg Bacon (6) and Jacob Ragland, Josh Wright (2), Jeffrey Mefford (4). WP: Sanders. LP: Jones. HR: Aundre Sanders (BH).
Josh Claywell can be reached at 505-1752