OZARK – The game was decided long before the celebratory dogpile on the pitcher’s mound at Eagle Stadium on Wednesday, but that didn’t diminish the fun the Wiregrass Cardinals 15U players were having after defeating the Dothan Dragons 14U 14-3 for the 15U AAU National Championship tournament title.
Sammy Frichter even got a Gatorade bath as a few players sneaked up behind him for the splash. The veteran coach of the program wasn’t complaining in the least.
He was all smiles while talking about his ball club, which went undefeated through pool and bracket play in dominating fashion to win what turned out to be a tournament of three local entrants – the Cardinals 15U, the Dragons 14Uand Ozark 15U.
“It’s for the kids,” Frichter said when asked what it meant to him. “To develop them and teach them how to do the right things on and off the field. It’s not about me, it’s about them.
“These kids are like family. They’ve grown together all year. The last two weeks they’ve been playing real well – they’ve been really hitting the ball and playing good defense.
“Our pitching has been real good. When you get pitching and defense, you can scratch up a few runs and win.”
The Cardinals did more than “scratch up a few runs. They took a 13-0 lead by the end of the second inning.
Cason Eubanks got things rolling in the bottom of the first inning when he ripped a triple off the center fielder’s glove to bring in Gage Rhodes, who had walked. Eubanks later scored on a groundout off the bat of Jackson Stewart. Allen Jones, who reached on an error after Eubanks’ triple, scored the final run of the inning when he dashed home following a wild pitch for a 3-0 advantage.
But it was in the second inning when the Cardinals blew the game wide open with 10 runs.
Eubanks again was the heavy hitter as he tripled with the bases loaded and two out to deep left field – driving in Jude Hasser, Cal Ashberry and Rhodes to make it 6-0.
Eubanks scored on an infield hit by Jones, who later came in on an error at third base following a grounder by Hunter Whitman. An RBI single by Brant Cochran made it 9-0. Devon Seay reached on an infield hit and two runs scored on the play to make it 11-0. Ashberry singled in two more runs.
Luke Nelson then entered in relief of Dothan starting pitcher C.J. Wilkerson. He walked the first batter he faced, but then recorded a strikeout to get out of the inning.
Dothan got on the scoreboard in the top of the third when Jake Johnson came in to score while Wilkerson was stealing second.
The Dragons made some more noise in the fourth inning when Bryson Howard led off with a single and Nelson and Trent Weatherly followed with walks. After a fly out to first base, Cole Dykes reached on an infield hit to bring in Howard. After a strikeout, Johnson walked with the bases loaded to make it 13-3.
The Cardinals added a final run in the fourth when Ashberry stole third and then came home when the throw attempting to get him went wild.
Ashberry was excellent on the mound for the Cardinals. He went the distance in the five-inning, mercy-rule win, scattering five hits, walking six and striking out two – the final coming to get the last out in the game.