Batting like champions

BELLEVILLE – It took a little longer than expected, but the Big Valley 9- and 10-year-old all-star team took home the District 5 championship Monday evening with a 17-2 rout of visiting Philipsburg-Osceola.

The teams waited out a lengthy rain delay in the top of the third inning as a torrential downpour soaked the main field in Belleville. With puddles all over the infield, the decision was made to play the remainder of the contest at the field adjacent to the one where the game started.

For Big Valley’s offense, it didn’t matter where the game was being played. The locals’ high-powered bats jumped all over Philipsburg-Osceola starting pitcher Ryan Whitehead from the very start, scoring seven runs before the right-hander could even record an out. By the time Whitehead escaped the inning, nine runs had crossed the plate and the visitors were staring at a 9-2 deficit. Big Valley only had two players, Marshall Maidens and Colby Bodtorf, record hits in the inning but they made them count by having two each.

Maidens, the leadoff hitter, got a second at-bat in the first inning and smacked a two-RBI double. Bodtorf followed with his second base knock of the evening, a triple that scored Maidens, to polish off the huge inning. Whitehead’s defense and command failed him several times in the inning as six runs came across on walks, passed balls and errors.

Philipsburg-Osceola had scored two runs off of Bodtorf, Big Valley’s starting pitcher in the first, but he set them down in order in the second and would not allow a run the rest of the way. It was Bodtorf’s second complete game performance of the tournament. He pitched all four innings of Big Valley’s 12-2 victory over Mifflin County earlier in the tournament.

“He’s pitched real good all year,” Big Valley manager Gary Eichhorn said. “Him and our other pitchers have done great for us this whole time.”

The Big Valley fireworks continued in the second inning. Maidens, Bodtorf, Brycen Hassinger, and Trey Kibe all recorded RBI singles, and two more runs crossed the plate on a passed ball and an error. Reliever Anthony Merryman struck out Cole Knable to end the inning, but the end result was no longer in doubt with the score at 15-2.

“We have some real power on this team, I think we did a real great job of scoring runs when we needed them,” Eichhorn said.

The rain struck in the top of the third and the game was moved to the other local field, but the remainder was just a formality. Bodtorf easily retired all five batters he faced and Hassinger added a two-run blast over the right field fence in the bottom of the third to extend the lead to 17-2. The game was called after three and a half innings due to the ten-run rule.

The dominant championship game performance was not lost on Eichhorn.

“The key was we had good pitching and good defense throughout this whole thing,” he said, referencing the district tournament. “When our hitting shows up, we’re pretty tough to beat, and it showed today.”

Having captured the district title, Big Valley advances to the Little League Section 4 tournament which begins July 15, and Eichhorn likes his team’s chances.

“I think we have a good shot,” he said. “It’s double elimination, so if we play the way we’ve played these last couple games we should be in good shape.”