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When Chad Clark and his Elizabethtown Area Baseball Commission 13-year-old All-Stars look back at the opening day of this summer’s Ohio Valley Regional, they’ll see a lot of missed opportunities — and some defensive miscues that opened the floodgates for their opponents.
The All-Stars made nine errors in two pool-play games Thursday, falling to Franklin-Simpson, 6-3 in the nightcap and to Jasper (Ind.), 7-0 in their opener at the Elizabethtown Sports Park.
EABC made five errors against Franklin-Simpson, including one in the top of the sixth inning that led to two runs after it had cut its deficit to 4-3.
“It was frustrating,” EABC first baseman Nolan Francis said. “We just couldn’t get any outs. Hopefully we can pick that up tomorrow. But we kept talking in the dugout and cheering everybody on.”
Hoping to get his team to play more loose — and looking to avoid the same circumstances as earlier in the day — Clark and his assistants tried to get the team to relax while taking pregame batting practice.
The plan worked, at least early on, against Franklin-Simpson as the All-Stars didn’t seem as tense as they were against Jasper.
Clark chalked up the earlier loss to “first-game jitters,” so he wanted to try and work the kinks out before playing again.
“I just let the boys be boys,” Clark said. “They had a little fun in the cages. When we were walking over to the field, we told them to have that kind of fun on the field, be loose and have fun, and that’s what we did.”
Even after Franklin-Simpson jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first, EABC didn’t panic and got the run back in the bottom half of the inning as Austin Heideman scored on an outfield error.
And after Franklin-Simpson regained the lead with a three-run fourth, the All-Stars refused to go away.
Instead, they pulled within 4-3 in the fourth when Noah Freyberger — who was EABC’s Player of the Game — and Francis had back-to-back RBI singles.
“It was pretty cool to get that hit,” Francis said. “We needed it.”
But the wheels came off in the sixth. Quentin Kitchens reached on an error and stole second. After an out, Hunter Crafton singled.
Cole Heinze then reached on a throwing error that sailed into foul territory down the right-field line, allowing Kitchens and Crafton to score.
Errors also came back to bite EABC against Jasper.
The All-Stars allowed two runs to score on an error and gave up another when Jasper’s Austin Simmers realized EABC’s infielders weren’t paying attention as he scored from third to make it 7-0.
“We could have had that game,” said Heideman, who was EABC’s Player of the Game. “We were down 3-0 and we were still in the game. But we made a couple of errors and I think it just got in our heads a little.”
Clark said he noticed his team’s mood shift in that inning.
“After that first error, it just seemed like their heads dropped,” he said. “And then one leads to two and two leads to three, and it just snowballed after that. We can’t make errors like that, but I contribute it to first-game jitters.”
While its defense was a bit shaky, EABC’s bats were held in check by Jasper starter Lucas Bauer and reliever Simmers.
Bauer, a left-hander, struck out six and scattered five hits and two walks in five innings.
“He wasn’t bad,” said Heideman, who singled off Bauer in the third. “We should have hit him more than we did, but I think we were just nervous.”
After struggling with his location in the first inning, Bauer started pitching out of the stretch in the second.
The results, he said, were much better because he was able to get his accuracy up.
“I wasn’t completely up to my normal standards,” Bauer said. “I had trouble hitting the strike zone. I felt it was decent, good enough for us to win.
“I normally pitch from the stretch and I throw more strikes,” he added. “But from the wind up, I get more velocity. I just needed to get more accuracy on my pitches today and it worked out for us.”
When the All-Stars did get runners on base, they were either with two outs or they were thrown out by Jasper catcher Mason Kleiser.
After allowing Freyberger to steal second in the first inning, Kleiser threw out the next three would-be base stealers.
“It was pretty unbelievable,” Bauer said of Kleiser. “He made some perfect throws. Those are three big outs he got us. It probably saved us a run or two.”
EABC’s final pool play game is at 8 tonight against Janesville, Wis.
Clark said he’s going to take the same approach he did Thursday and let his players have some fun in batting practice.
“The first game we were tight, so we came back out here and had a little fun in the batting cages,” he said. “I felt we were real loose and I think we’re going to do that again tomorrow and just play and have fun and relax.”
FREE ADMISSION. Beginning at 6 tonight, any EABC player wearing their uniform will get in free at the gate for the EABC 11s game at 7 and the EABC 13s game at 8.
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.