In the course of a season, a team will have nights in which it doesn't bring the "A game." It's on those nights a coach hopes his veteran leaders will pick up the slack to lead the team to victory.
On a night in which his team committed four errors in the field, second baseman Adam Hammond did just that for South Putnam. The senior went 3-for-5 with two home runs and seven runs batted in. The Eagles (7-1, 5-0 WCC) defeated Monrovia 13-12.
"I was a little frustrated with our focus," Eagle coach Harold Campbell said. "We pride ourselves on being a team that is very sound defensively. We pride ourselves on being able to make the routine plays, and we weren't doing that tonight."
The game opened well for South as Cameron Chestnut hit a ground rule double on the first pitch he saw. Noah Boswell drove him in two batters later and the Eagles led 1-0 after the first. In the second Chestnut and Hammond had consecutive RBI singles to put the team up 3-0.
However, Monrovia came back with one run in the third and five in the fourth. The Bulldogs had no extra base hits in the game, but capitalized on three Eagle errors in the fourth, including a routine play at shortstop that really got things started for Monrovia.
"After a mistake at short, we ended up giving them four or five more runs there (in the fourth). That's not how we play baseball and I was disappointed in that," Campbell said.
Monrovia had a 6-3 lead, but the Eagles came right back.
"I told the guys, 'We've given them what we've given them, and now we have to battle back in the ball game.' That was when, I don't know if they were angry or what, but that's when the bats started breaking loose," Campbell said.
With one on and two outs in the fourth, Hammond connected on the first of his home runs, a two-run shot. Noah Boswell immediately followed him with a solo homer of his own.
"I know we're a team that, if we get behind we have the capability to come back," Campbell said. "Adam Hammond came up big there. We had two outs at that time and that first homer was huge to get us back a little closer. Noah Boswell, who we've been waiting on to unleash his bat really unleashed on one, and that got us going a little bit."
With the score tied at six, the Eagles appeared to break it open in the fifth when Hammond connected on his second home run, this one a grand slam that put the Eagles up 11-6.
When Chestnut added an RBI single in the sixth, it looked like starter Brice Steinbaker would pick up the easy win. The sophomore allowed six runs, five hits and five walks while striking out seven in his six innings of work.
But the Eagles' pull pen struggled mightily in the seventh. Chestnut faced five batters and all five reached base. When freshman Grant Zimmerman relieved Chestnut, he fared only slightly better. The Bulldogs eventually scored six runs to tie the game at 12 heading into the bottom of the seventh.
The Eagles remained confident in their bats, though.
Boswell opened the inning with an infield single and advanced to second on throwing error. A sacrifice, a missed squeeze play later and a strikeout later, there were runners at the corners for Brayden Freeman with two outs. The Bulldogs made it easy, though, as Boswell scored the game winner on a wild pitch.
"We always feel like if we've got the last at bat, we've got a chance to win because we know offense is one of our strengths. We got some guys on base and ultimately they had a little mistake there at the end," Campbell said.
Zimmerman picked up the victory for his one inning of work.
For the offense, it was the top three in the lineup, Chestnut, Hammond and Boswell, who carried the load, as they combined to drive in 11 runs.
"We didn't deserve to win this game tonight. My guys know they were lucky to get this win because they didn't play the type of baseball that we like to play to win games. But they battled back. A win's a win and we'll take it," Campbell said.
The two squads face off again at 5 p.m. today at Monrovia.
At South Putnam
Monrovia 001 500 6 -- 12 9 2
South Putnam 120 351 1 -- 13 16 4
Steward, Speck (5) and Spears; Steinbaker, Chestnut (7), Zimmerman (7) and Dean.
WP -- Zimmerman.
LP -- Speck.
2B -- Chestnut, Dean, Steinbaker (SP).
HR -- Hammond 2, Boswell (SP).
Next game -- South Putnam (7-1, 5-0 WCC) and Monrovia (2-6, 2-3 WCC) square off again at 5 p.m. today at Monrovia.