Close Encounters

Sargent’s Heads-Up Play Lifts Alabama Past West End In Thriller

Alabama’s Caleb Coffey scores the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning against West End, Pennsylvania. P-J photo by Mark L. Anderson

At some point, the 2018 edition of the Alabama RawDogs will gather to relive their experiences at the Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series.

At the top of their conversation list will likely be the play of their catcher, Chris Sargent, in Game 17.

In the sixth inning.

Of a tie game.

With one out, and with the top seed in the National Division and a bye heading into the single-elimination portion of the tournament at stake.

West End’s Logan Edmunds delivers to the plate during Game 17 of the Babe Ruth 16-18 World Series on Wednesday. P-J photo by Mark L. Anderson

It’s a memory that those in attendance at Diethrick Park on Wednesday afternoon won’t forget either.

For the record, the RawDogs (4-0) edged West End of Williamsport, Pennsylvania (2-2), 4-3, on a walk-off passed ball in the bottom of the seventh, but the outcome could have easily gone the other way if Sargent had not made an athletic, heads-up play to get his team out of a huge, huge jam the inning prior.

Here’s how it happened.

Trailing, 3-1, heading into the top of the sixth, West End had runners on first and second with one out. Tanner Esposito doubled to score one run and Eric Holz followed with an RBI single that tied the game and moved Esposito to third.

With runners at the corners, Caleb Joy laid down a suicide squeeze bunt that rolled just out of the batter’s box. Quick as a cat, Sargent picked up the ball, quickly tagged Esposito for the second out and threw to first base to complete the double play.

Alabama’s Trevor Wells successfully lays down a sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the seventh inning of Game 17. P-J photo by Mark L. Anderson

Instead of trailing by a run, and with the momentum squarely in West End’s favor, the RawDogs were back in the dugout.

“That was awesome. That was a heads-up play,” Alabama coach Tony Hendrix said. “Truly, I was just happy we got the out at the plate. I didn’t think about (throwing to first). It just happened. Thank God he was in the game and I wasn’t.”

The rally-killing play settled down the RawDogs, reliever Caleb Coffey retired West End in order in the seventh and then Alabama managed to finally win it — barely — in the bottom of the inning when Coffey raced home with the winning run on a passed ball.

“You can’t give a team like Alabama that many opportunities, and we left a number of guys on base,” West End coach Jamie Joy said.

The victory gave the Southwest Region champions a bye into the single-elimination portion of the tournament. Their next game will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday against the Onondaga-Bakersfield winner. The loss dropped West End into a matchup with Northern Fairfax County at 5 p.m. today.

Alabama opened the scoring in the first inning, highlighted by Reece Ewing’s RBI triple and Sargent’s sacrifice fly. West End pushed across a run in the fourth on Holz’s RBI groundout and tied it with their rally in the sixth.

But the squad from Williamsport could have had much more, but Sargent came to the rescue, leaving Hendrix a relieved man as he answered questions immediately after the game.

“Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good,” he said. “I feel bad for (the West End) guys. They played their hearts out. The ball just bounced our way and you need that to win these things.”

Caleb Williams worked the first five innings, giving up a run and four hits, before being relieved by Coffey in the sixth.

Logan Edmunds, Kyle Caringi and Trip Breen were on the hill for West End. Breen appeared to be on his way out of a jam in the seventh. After loading the bases with no outs, he was able to get two forceouts at the plate, but with Ewing in the batter’s box, a Breen offering got past the catcher, which allowed Coffey to score the winning run.

“We’re a very good team. We try and look at the glass being half full, and always be positive,” Coach Joy said. “We have our 1-2-3 (pitchers) set to go. We’re in the best position we can be in right now.”

The RawDogs sit even better.

“If we hit the baseball, we’re going to be fine,” Hendrix said, “because our pitching is good enough to hold people down.”

NOTES: Rone, Ewing and Cribb each had two hits for the RawDogs. Holz and Pardoe had two hits for West End. … Williams and Edmunds were the Ron Tellefsen Most Outstanding Players.