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Sandlot sluggers runners-up at World Series

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times
The Apalach Times

It doesn’t get any closer than this, and sometimes you come out on top, and sometimes you fall a little short.

But that’s baseball.

Franklin County’s 11-and-under boys Sandlot Squad did the county proud last week, as they fought their way to a second place finish in the 2020 Grand Slam World Series of Baseball Session IV.

The series, presented by Captain Jacks, featured 13 teams, all competing at the Panama City Beach Sports Complex.

Under the direction of head coach Lloyd Alford, and assistant coaches Jody Martina, Tyler Poloronis, Jimmy Granger, Harold Williams, and Zac Alday, the boys opened play on Tuesday, July 21 against the Kentuckiana Blue Sox, and thanks to a late-game comeback, emerged victorious 14-10.

Trailing 10-7 going into the fifth, the Sandlot boys scored seven runs to secure their opening series win against the team out of Shepherdsville, Kentucky. Starting pitcher #7 Kayden Drake, one of two 10-year-olds on the team, went three-and-one-third innings on the mound, with #14 Terrell Williams pitching one-and-two-thirds innings.

In the second game, Sandlot had an easier time against the Mississippi Prospects, with a 14-2 victory over the team out of Rienzi, Mississippi. Pitching a complete game was #3 Chason Martina, who struck out five.

On Wednesday, July 22, Sandlot continued to swing hot bats, as they downed the Central Kentucky Cubs, out of Cynthiana, Kentucky, 12-1.

The other 10-year-old on the team, #10 Karcen Poloronis, got the scoring off to a bang with a single that drove home two runs in the first, and the onslaught was on.

Pitching a one-hitter was #1 Sadiq Jones, who gave up one run, struck out three and gave up no walks over the course of four innings.

The boys had Thursday off, so coaches Alford, Martina and wife Tiffany, and Poloronis and wife Lindsay, took them to Shipwreck Island, a treat made possible by generous donations from the community at a recent fundraiser.

On Friday morning, July 24, Sandlot was back in action, and this time they proved the winner in a tough-fought, extra-inning game against the Mississippi Bulls out of Sumrall, Mississippi.

Tied at five-all, Jones slammed a double in the top of the seventh to drive in a run, followed by singles from #6 Rylan Wood, #12 Jeremiah Allen, Drake and Martina, as the boys accumulated seven runs to secure the 12-5 victory.

Jones pitched the opening five innings and then Drake got the win, as he shut down the Bulls with no runs in the last two innings.

On Friday afternoon would come the team’s toughest opponent, the Texas Tide out of Ovilla, Texas, a baseball academy which blends schoolwork and daily practices.

Martina pitched five innings, and Williams one, and while the boys had kept the Tide at bay through three, the Texans banged out seven runs in the fourth and fifth innings to secure a 7-0 shutout, sending Sandlot into the loser’s bracket.

“It was a really great game,” said coach Martina. “Even though we lost, it was a great game.”

Sandlot would now have to battle out of the losers’ bracket if they wanted to earn a berth in the championship game.

Jones got the early Saturday morning start against the NV Stars, out of Georgetown, Kentucky, and his teammates scored four in the first to give him a cushion.

A Williams single, followed by one from #27 Nolan Alford, and a sacrifice grounder from Poloronis advanced the rally, as Jones gave up three runs on four hits over five innings, striking out four.

But with his team leading 6-3, the tournament’s 14-inning pitching maximum caught up with Jones and he had to be pulled. Drake came in as closer, and while he gave up a pair of runs, it was good enough to earn a save and a crucial 6-5 win for Sandlot.

The win set the stage for the championship game, a rematch against the Texas Tide, which had not lost but tied once.

Sandlot scored a pair of runs in the first to jump to a 2-0 lead, as Drake got the start.

Texas came back with a run in the second, and Sandlot scored again in the third, to hold on to a fragile 3-1 lead.

The Tide sliced the margin to one with a run in the fourth, and neither team added to their tallies in the fifth.

But in the bottom of the sixth, the Tide did what great teams do, and scored a pair of two-out runs to eke out a 5-4 victory to capture the crown.

“They were very good sportsmen and it was a really good ball game,” said coach Martina. “They were the better team that day.”

The runner-up Sandlot squad also featured standout play by #23 Dre North and #4 Ja’Corey Williams, who Martina praised for a tough tournament behind the plate.

“He caught every single game with an injured finger on his hand until he asked to be taken out as catcher,” he said. “We call him ‘Spark Plug.” He batted leadoff and he played his butt off.”

Sandlot continues to play in tournaments this summer. If you want to donate, you can send donations to an account set up at Centennial Bank. For more info email mkatelou7@yahoo.com