Cambridge 2-hits KCHS to advance in region baseball

WORTON — It was a different day with a different outcome, and the overcast sky at Spry Field matched the dreary ending to the Trojans’ season.

Kent County played a futile game of catch-up May 9 in the opening round of the Class 1A East Region I baseball tournament against Cambridge-South Dorchester, even though KCHS had been able to come back against C-SD to win the regular-season finale, 7-5, six days earlier.

The teams had split the two-game regular-season series.

Cambridge at home defeated Kent County in their first meeting last month, 16-5.

In the rubber match here on May 9, poor execution on many fronts — baserunning, defense and offense — was the undoing of the Trojans in the 3-1 loss.

“We just didn’t hit,” head coach Jason Conner said matter-of-factly. 

“You can’t win games by not hitting the ball,” he said of the Trojans, who had only two hits.

Trailing 3-1 in the last of the seventh, KCHS (3-16) was able to load the bases when Trice Moore drew a one-out walk. But the next batter, on a full-count pitch, hit into a double play — getting the force out at home and then the batter at first — to end the game.

Kent County’s starting pitcher Tanner Beck deserved a better fate.

Back-to-back-to-back errors from the left side of the Trojans’ infield with one away in the top of the first inning produced the Vikings’ first run.

KCHS answered in its first plate appearance to deadlock at 1-1.

Leadoff batter Jace Conner worked out a walk after trailing 1-2 in the count, stole second and scored one batter later on a perfectly executed hit-and-run with Noah Iacona, who bounced the ball into left field for a single.

Iacona subsequently stole second and Scottie Ford, hitting in the cleanup spot, drew a free pass to give the Trojans two runners on with only one away.

But Iacona got caught in a rundown between second and third and Cambridge ace Blake LaBelle got the next batter on a called strike three to avert any more run damage.

Cambridge (3-17) threatened again in the top of the second when Nate Huber led off with a single to left field and Jaden Ferguson drew a walk to give the visiting team two runners on and no one out, but Beck settled in and retired the next three batters on a strikeout, a flyout to deep right field that Jack Walters tracked down at the fence and a groundout back to the mound.

Kent County likewise had two runners on in the last of the second — Braden Wilson reached on an error to lead off and Walters drew a free pass — but LaBelle sat down the next three batters on a pair of whiffs and a groundout to second.

Collectively in the third inning, Beck and his Cambridge counterpart faced only seven batters in the 1-1 stalemate.

The Vikings scored what held up to be the winning run in the top of the fourth. With two on and one away, Tanner Coulbourne, swinging from the left side of the plate, chopped a single into shallow right field to plate Huber, who drew a leadoff walk. 

Cambridge was foiled in its attempt to add to the 2-1 lead when left fielder Wilson stretched across his body to snag LaBelle’s line drive to left field for the second out and Beck induced a 6-to-3 groundout to end the inning.

The Trojans failed to capitalize with a runner in scoring position after Walters reached on a two-out walk in the last of the fourth and went to second without drawing a throw, and were retired in order in the fifth and sixth frames.

Meantime, the Vikings pushed across the insurance run in the top of the fifth when Noah Marshall reached on a leadoff walk, was bunted over to second by Collin Bair and scored on Huber’s two-out single to center field to make it 3-1. 

Huber alertly went to second on the relay from the outfield, Ferguson reached on a dropped third strike and Jacob Perry walked to load the bases with two away.

That was enough to chase Beck, who had thrown only 87 pitches. He swapped positions with shortstop Jace Conner.

Conner got the Trojans out of the inning in a hurry, retiring the first batter he faced on a well-struck ball that center fielder Moore caught up to for the third out.

Conner pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning and averted any run damage in the seventh, keeping the Trojans within striking distance as they were down to their last three outs.

KCHS stacked the bases with one away in the seventh — Liam Tidaback on third, Wilson on second and Moore on first, the number five, six and eight batters, respectively — but was unable to cash in.

After the 11-7 campaign of 2023, which featured three guys who are now playing at the college level, this year was a rebuilding one for the Trojans.

There were only two seniors on the 17-player opening day roster, which included a pitcher/infielder who was unable to finish the season because of injury.

“Despite our record, I enjoyed this team. They worked hard and there was good team chemistry,” coach Jason Conner said.

Conner already is looking forward to next year when he anticipates having a full stable of five pitchers, and experience at catcher and all the infield positions.

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Cambridge was knocked out in the second round of the region tournament by top seed Colonel Richardson, 14-0.

Colonel (22-2) then edged St. Michaels, 1-0, in the 1A East Region I championship game and has advanced to the state semifinals after getting past Mardela, 3-2, on May 17.

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