Mistakes don’t hurt Monument in Little League regional victory
Monument Little League accomplished the most important thing Saturday: It won its opening game in the Intermediate (50/70) Division Southwestern Regional baseball tournament.
But it wasn’t as impressive an outing as the 23-8 final score against Gallup (N.M.) Little League suggests.
Monument made defensive mistakes that allowed Gallup to hang around and close within 12-8 after five innings. Gallup’s comeback hopes were dashed in the top of the sixth, however, as Monument sent 15 batters to the plate and scored 11 runs.
Shawn Garcia then entered the game in relief and struck out the side to end the contest on the 10-run rule.
“We’re counting it to jitters,” Monument coach Sean Kreidler said. “We definitely made some uncharacteristic mistakes on defense. We have some things we have to clean up. We can play better.”
Monument has a greater goal than one win in the regional, which means it must tighten up its defense when it plays Post Oak Little League of Houston, Texas, at 8 p.m. Monday.
Kreidler doesn’t figure Post Oak will be as forgiving of errors as Gallup was, which is why Monument’s coaches emphasized after the game the players should be happy they won, but there’s plenty of work to do.
That will include practicing under the lights tonight to prepare the team for its first night game of the season Monday at Grand Mesa Little League sports complex.
Saturday’s victory certainly had plenty of positives. Gallup put a new pitcher on the mound about every 20 pitches, trotting out eight different hurlers, including one of them twice. It didn’t matter who threw, how hard they threw or from what side they threw it, Monument hit the ball, ran the bases aggressively and seized on every Gallup mistake, including eight errors, many of them on errant pickoff attempts.
Leadoff hitter Zack Owens led the charge at the plate, going 5 for 6 with two doubles and seven RBI. He hit a two-run double in Monument’s five-run second inning, plus two two-run singles in the sixth. The only out he made was on a game-opening flyout to right field, which was a well-hit ball that just didn’t fall.
“I just saw it well and swung at the pitches I liked and drove the ball,” Owens said. “I didn’t try to do too much with it.”
First baseman Canon Kreidler got on base in all five of his plate appearances, collecting two hits, two walks and a hit-by-pitch. He also showed how fast he can get his long legs churning as two drives to the left-field corner netted a triple and a two-run, inside-the-park home run.
Zach Coutts and Garcia each added three hits to Monument’s 16-hit effort, and Monument drew 10 walks.
Coutts also earned the win, throwing the first five innings, and he was much more effective than the eight runs against him indicate. He gave up four hits and four walks, and he struck out nine batters, but Gallup scored three runs in the third inning without getting a hit, and it added three runs in the fifth on one hit, highlighted by a two-run double. Walks and physical and mental errors were the primary culprits.
Owens said sharper focus and execution will be important come Monday.
“We have to play better defense because we can’t go against Texas and play the defense we played today,” he said. “We have to play Monument defense and just do what we do.”