After using his glove and bat to help give the Metro East Bears a big lead on Saturday, Drake Hampton used his right arm to close the door on Midland, Mich., on Saturday at the American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional Tournament.
Taking over for starter Jordan Hovey in the seventh inning, Hampton pitched shutout ball the rest of the way as the Bears made sure manager Ken Schaake’s 62nd birthday was a happy one as they hung on for a 9-7 win at Gordon Moore Park.
“We just gave them (the Bears) to big of a lead (8-0) and they made some good defensive plays — turned a couple of double plays, I think,” Midland manager Steve Cronkright said. “We’re alright though we’ve been in the posititon before.”
The win moves the Bears two victories away from a trip to the national tournament. Their next test will come at 1 p.m. Sunday against Madison, Wis., which kept its title hopes alive by eliminating Elgin 4-2 in the first game on Saturday. Madison defeated the Bears 4-0 on Thursday.
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The winner of the Madison-Metro East game will take on Midland at 4 p.m. for a berth in the national finals.
The winner of the American Legion Baseball Great Lakes Regional Tournament will advance to the American Legion World Series which begins on Thursday at Keeter Stadium in Shelby, N.C.
The only undefeated team in the tournanment heading into play Saturday, Midland was held to just three hits overr the first five innings by Bears starter Jordan Hovey. But when Hovey tired in the sixth, Midland cut an eight run lead to 8-5.
The Midland comeback continued in the seventh as it closed to within 9-7, but entering the game with nobody out and a runner on first base, Hampton came to the rescue.
Offensively, Drake Hampton and Mitchell Krebs drove in two runs each for the Metro East Bears which made the most out their seven hits. Aaron Jackson added a solo home run in the sixth for the Bears (30-9) who tallied in five of the first six innings against a Midland squad which scored 26 runs in winning its first three games of the double elimination tournament.
Held to three hits in the first five innings by Hovey, Midland got its offense cranked up in the sixth as it loaded the bases with nobody out. Jordan Dopp made it 8-1 with a run scoring single and a two-run double by Caleb Sommerville cut the Bears lead to 8-3.
Derek Clyde then made it 8-5 with an RBI single later in the inning.
A solo home run by Matt Zielonko in the seventh inning increased the Bears lead back to 9-5, but Midland then ended Hovey’s night on the mound when Cole Brooks again cut the Midland deficit to three runs withn RBI single.
Whille Midland (44-7) gave the Bears a scare late, Metro East dominated the first 5 1/2 innings, taking an 8-0 lead.
Coming off a hard-fought 4-3 win over Plover, Wis. on Friday, the Bears kept their mommentum going with a pair of runs off Midland starter Garrett Willis in the top of the first inning.
A hard-throwing southpaw, Willis retired the first two hitters before walking Aaron Jackson on a 3-2 pitch. Jackson then advanced to second on a balk by Willis.
Krebs, batting .400 through the first three games of the tournament, then lined a single up the middle, scoring Jackson with the first run of the night. Four pitches later it was 2-0 when Connor Melton hit a 2-1 pitch off the leftfield fence to drive in Krebs.
Hampton made it 4-0 with a two-run double in the second inning before the Bears ended the night for Willis with two more runs in the third. Krebs added his second RBI on a fielders choice in the fourth before Jackson gave the Bears their biggest lead of the night (8-0) with a solo home run in the sixth.
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 618-239-2661.