Bomber lead, summer bonds slip awayJuly 24, 2014
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
HUNTINGBURG — Oh, how the summer months fly by.
To Dubois County Bombers catcher Rick Linton, it feels like just yesterday he squatted down for the summer’s opener at League Stadium in Huntingburg, and he was arriving in southern Indiana in 2013 for his first of two stints with the Bombers.
He even joked with fellow second-year man Johnathan Williams before the game at “how old” he was feeling as the senior at Murray State University approaches the end of his final season of summer ball.
It goes fast, but that’s life, and that’s baseball. The same way time flies, sometimes so do leads. The Bombers witnessed that Wednesday at League Stadium, as what felt like a secure one-run advantage evaporated into a 6-1 loss against the Madisonville Miners in the first round of the Ohio Valley League playoffs. The Bombers surrendered six runs in the top of the ninth inning to the last-place Miners as a suddenly potent lineup ripped single after single against a pitcher who had been untouchable all evening.
“They say with baseball, hitting is contagious, and all of the sudden, (the Miners) were taking butt-out swings, hitting line drives to left-center, couple cheap shots,” Linton said. “That’s baseball though.”
There were no tears after the game, just some hugs and idle talk as players milled around the first-base line. There was disappointment, but the real sense of melancholy came from the team splitting up after a summer of camaraderie.
“This group of guys was easily the closest group of guys that I’ve been around in three years of playing summer ball,” Linton said. “I’m just going to remember all the good times we had on the field and off the field hanging out together. It was never one or two guys hanging out with each other, it was a always a group of 10, 15 of us.”
Third baseman Chase Scott came late to the Bomber party, joining the team near the end of June after finishing up some summer school. This was supposed to be just a small stop before he headed to the University of Southern Mississippi after two years of junior college in Georgia.
He joined the team with only a month remaining, but that didn’t stop the Bombers from bringing Scott into their circle.
“Especially being a newcomer, everybody’s kind of sitting back and feeling me out,” Scott said. “After (the first few games) it was like I was part of the team and they really welcomed me.
“It was easy to play after that, once you feel welcome.”
Scott’s leadoff home run in the seventh lifted the Bombers (191⁄2-211⁄2) to a 1-0 lead. Scott, after fouling off the first two pitches, took an inside pitch and sent it over the left field-wall. It was the Bombers’ fourth hit of the ballgame, and they tallied just two more.
Scott’s homer appeared to be enough. Starter Ryan Dills (2-3) ripped through the Madisonville lineup through the first eight innings, allowing just one hit and striking out five with two walks. Before the ninth inning, Dills faced more than three batters in an inning just once.
“Dills was doing a great job getting down in the zone, getting weak contact, weak ground balls,” Linton said. “Hats off to him. He’s a great pitcher and I had so much fun catching him all year. He commands three pitches really well and that’s what’s going to win ballgames.”
But after Madisonville (11-30) flew out to start the top of the ninth, Dills walked the next batter and then gave up two straight singles, including a low line drive that ricocheted off the mound and into shallow center, scoring the Miners’ first run. Dills exited the inning after the first RBI and three Bomber relievers couldn’t contain the damage as Madisonville racked up five more runs on six hits — all singles.
Joe Sturino belted a double in the bottom of the ninth and advanced to third on a wild pitch, but was left stranded after a groundout to end the game and season.
“It’s one of those things where we really didn’t do anything wrong,” Bombers manager Wes Fink said. “It wasn’t our best offensive night.”
That was the theme for most of the year for the Bombers, a group Fink said “worked harder than any team that I’ve seen. They ended up coming together a lot as a team. They played hard. They played the game the right way.”
That’s what Linton will remember most about this year’s Bombers, a squad assembled from across the United States, and even Canada, which came together for one brief summer.
“The chemistry we built, it’s weird, you put 25 guys together and they know they’re going to be together for only two months, and at the end of two months it’s always hard,” said Linton, who plans to graduate with a degree in accounting next spring. “It’s so hard to go away from that, win or lose, because you’ve been with them every single day for the last two months. It’s just funny how baseball can do that and bring together guys from Texas, from Georgia, Indiana — all over the place. Bring them to one location and we all have a great time together and enjoy each others’ company.”
Contact Joseph Fanelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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