Melrose battling back again
The Melrose 12-under Babe Ruth All-Stars are almost halfway home in their latest improbable comeback bid, this one in Live Oak at the North Florida Tournament.
They take a 4-2 lead to the bottom of the sixth inning over Julington Creek in a Friday elimination game that was delayed and ultimately suspended by stormy weather. If Melrose makes the lead stand up, it plays again at 9 a.m. against Fort Caroline and the winner of that game goes in a 1 p.m. semifinal for a title shot on Sunday at the First Federal Sportsplex.
Facing elimination after Thursday’s 3-0 loss to South Daytona, Melrose edged host Live Oak 6-5 on Friday morning, getting the All-Stars to the Julington Creek game. Time and again, Melrose teams have dropped tournament openers, only to battle back to the finals. They’re at it again despite collecting just three hits against Live Oak.
“We can’t get our timing down on these (pitchers). But we find a way to win,” said Melrose assistant coach Patrick White.
No one did more to help them find a way Friday than Austin Smith, who drilled a three-run double to left center in the third inning. Colton Hollingsworth reached on an error, Tallon Campbell walked and Aiden Screen was hit by a pitch, setting the stage for Smith.
Melrose scratched out another run in the fourth. Sammy Wacha was hit by a pitch, stole second and third and scored on Cason Thomas’ groundout.
Live Oak took a 5-4 lead to the bottom of the fifth when Smith picked up his fourth RBI on a grounder that scored Destin Harnage, who had singled. Screen, who walked ahead of Smith, stole second, took third in Smith’s groundout and scored the go-ahead run on a passed ball.
The third Melrose pitcher, Aiden Screen walked the leadoff batter in the sixth, then came back to strike out the side for the win. His cousin, Clayton Screen, pitched the first four innings before Campbell came on in the fifth.
“We cut down on our walks. Most of the time, a guy gets on with a walk and he scores. We can’t do that at this level,” White said.
The only Melrose hit beside Smith’s double and Harnage’s single was a third-inning single by Keegun Hughes.
The All-Stars got the bats going while building a 4-2 lead over Julington Creek in their second game. Smith hit his second double of the day Aiden Screen had two doubles and Hughes had two singles.
Smith is due to pitch when play resumes at 8 a.m.