David Reeder

Special to the Grove Sun

JAY-After a lackluster end of the regular season, the Jay Bulldogs needed to turn things around to make a run at the postseason.  And under a blazing July sun Saturday afternoon at Trollinger-Haggard Field they did just that.  On the heels of a 22-inning scoring drought on the previous week, the resilient Bulldogs rolled to the postseason tournament title with three consecutive and hard fought victories in the following week.   This time the ’Black & Gold’ chose to victimize their opponents rather than play the victim, and it showed.

In the early going against Miami in Wednesday’s pool play of the Three Rivers Conference’s end of the season baseball tournament, at Trollinger- Haggard Field, things looked rough for the Jay Bulldogs.

Jay’s starting pitcher, junior to be Tyler Buss appeared to have pitched his way out of some first inning trouble. After yielding a one-out double, the lanky left-hander then walked the next batter. Both runners moved up on an infield error that rightfully should have been the second out. And the War Dogs drew first blood with an infield RBI sacrifice by their cleanup batter, while the potential second run stood 90 feet from the plate. Another Bulldog error gave their guests another extra out and another base runner. But Buss limited the damage by getting the Miami batter to ground weakly into a force out at second.

Jeremy Dunham led off the bottom of the first with a base hit and stole second base to be in scoring position. But Dunham got caught in a rundown between second and third on a Matt Henderson fielder’s choice. And when the inning came to a conclusion the Bulldogs had threatened, but stranded a pair of runners instead.

Buss pitched around a two-out double in the top of the second, to set up the pivotal home half of the frame.

Kellen Brown led off with a walk and advanced to second on an error by the centerfielder. And with nobody down, Cal Guinn punched a double that scored Brown and knotted things at one each. But the ‘Dogs were far from done. Dunham worked the pitcher for a walk and with two on board and two outs, Ty Moore cracked the first pitch into the crease for a stand up double and a pair of runners batted in. Moore came into score Jay’s fifth run of the inning when the War Dog infield booted J.J. Meeker’s hard hit grounder.

Brown led off the Jay third with a single and reached second on a wild pitch. Guinn’s infield sacrifice put Brown on third, where he subsequently scored his second run of the game on another wild pitch for a 6-1 lead.

Fortified by a five run lead and getting a little defense behind him, Buss looked to get stronger and smarter with each opposing batter. Carefully, mixing the fastball with the breaking pitches, the southpaw hurler and his catcher, Meeker were in sync for the bulk of the final innings. Scattering three hits over the next four innings, Buss allowed a single run via a walk, a wild pitch and a passed ball, as the Bulldogs hung together for their second victory of the week, 6-2, moving them into Saturday’s title game.

But things did not start off well for Jay in the finals against always-tough Vinita.  In the top of the first, the Hornet lead off man worked the Bulldog starter, J.J. Meeker, for a walk. And the next batter put the visitors on the scoreboard when he scorched Meeker’s first offering up and out of the park. 

After Jay went down in order in the home half of the first, both squads went scoreless in the next.  And in the top of the third, an error and a pair of hits saw the Hornets add two more runs with two outs. 

Down 4-0, Bulldogs roared back in the home half of the third.  With Garrett Mack’s leadoff single, Jay used a Matt Henderson hit and a pair of errors to load the bases.  With the sacks jammed, Ty Moore rifled a shot to the opposite field, where the hard charging right fielder misplayed it off of his glove and to the fence.  And by the time the dust had settled, Moore was sitting on second and all three runners had crossed the plate.  Meeker completed the rally and tied the score when he traded places with Moore as a result of his RBI double, tying the score at four.

In the top of the fourth Moore and Meeker traded places defensively, with Moore taking over on the hill and Meeker behind the plate.  Moore fought his way around a lead off error and a hit batsman to strand a pair of Hornets. 

And in the bottom of the stanza Kellen Brown started things with a single and moved to second when Brett Pritchett was struck by a pitch.  A perfectly executed sacrifice bunt by Mack moved both runners into scoring position, where Cal Guinn gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the game when his single plated Brown. 

Jay had the opportunity to blow the game wide open in the bottom of the fifth.  Meeker and Tyler Buss connected on back to back two-out singles and were joined on base by Brown, who was struck by a pitch. But the Vinita pitcher got the next batter to strike out, to leave the bases loaded.

After getting the visitors side down in order in the top of both the fifth and sixth, Jeremy Dunham punched a two-out double in the bottom of the inning.  An error in the Vinita outfield scored Dunham with an all-important insurance run, with an inning left to play. 

With the Bulldogs on top 6-4, it was do or die for the visitors in the top of the seventh.  Vinita’s A.J King led off with a double and moved to third on a base hit.  An infield error scored King and brought the Hornets within one at 6-5.  Jay finally got the first out on a fielder’s choice that left the tying run on third and the go ahead run on first.  But Moore got the subsequent batter to hit a hard grounder to Henderson for the front end of the game and tournament winning 6-4-3 twin killing.