BRADENTON, Fla. -- Team Larkin and Team Howard came to the field on Thursday at IMG Academy ready to battle it out for the right to be known as the inaugural Prospect Development Pipeline League champions. While no one walked away a loser, there wasn’t a winner, either, as the
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Team Larkin and Team Howard came to the field on Thursday at IMG Academy ready to battle it out for the right to be known as the inaugural Prospect Development Pipeline League champions. While no one walked away a loser, there wasn’t a winner, either, as the two teams played to a 4-4 tie to close out league play.
The teams even tacked on an extra inning, putting runners on first and second to start each half (using international rules), to try and find a winner, to no avail.
“It was really fun,” Team Howard shortstop Ed Howard (Mount Carmel, Ill.) said. “It was a back and forth game. It came down to the last innings and both teams had a lot of opportunities to win it. It ended in a tie, I’m not happy about that. I wish we could, even something like rock, paper, scissors, I don’t know, find some winner. But it is what it is.”
Coaches would neither confirm nor deny that a sudden death round of roshambo did take place after the eighth inning, where the unofficial winner would have been Team Larkin. That wouldn’t have satisfied the competitive zeal the players all clearly had, as all 40 players involved in the title game clearly forgot this is a developmental league with a title on the line.
“When it was the championship game, of course we wanted to win, just for the bragging rights,” Howard said. “Talking to Team Larkin, they wanted to win. We wanted to win. It was a fun game.”
Howard played a big part in getting his team back in the game. Team Larkin had taken an early 2-0 lead on a double by Robert Hassell (Independence, Tenn.), who finished the league with a .385 average and a 1.12 OPS. Hassell not only had four doubles, a home run and four stolen bases, he also tossed six innings without allowing an earned run, including two shutout frames in the championship. But Howard, an Oklahoma commit, tripled to lead off the third inning and scored to make the score 3-1.
It was 4-1 in the fifth when Team Howard roared back. Michael Brown (Vacaville, Calif.) led off the inning with a walk and Howard crushed a pitch over the left-center-field wall to bring his squad within one. One out later, pinch-hitter Alec Gonzalez (Marian Catholic, Ill.) followed with a homer of his own to knot the score. And that’s how it ended.
“I got in a good hitter’s count,” Howard said. “It was 3-1, so I knew the fastball was coming. I had squared up a ball earlier, so I was feeling good. I was looking for a fastball inside and that’s where he threw it.”
It was a good way for the smooth middle infielder to finish off the PDP League. Howard didn’t swing the bat well for much of league play, though he did show excellent defensive actions throughout. It allows him to move on to other events this summer with a bit more confidence.
“It feels really good,” Howard said. “I started off rough. It was a struggle, but I tried to stay mentally strong and keep working. So it feels good to finally get rewarded with a little success at the end and I’m just going to carry it on and keep it going.”
Team Jeter wins consolation
The top of Team Jeter’s lineup, Dylan Crews (Lake Mary, Fla.) and Petey Halpin (St. Francis, Calif.) drove in a total of four runs to help Team Jeter finish PDP League play with a 5-4 record as they beat Team Jones, 7-1, in the consolation game. Nick Griffin (Monticello, Ark.) tossed two shutout innings, striking out a pair and allowing just one hit and he was followed by lefty Nate Wohlgemuth (Owasso, Okla.), who gave up on unearned run on two hits and two walks, striking out two over three innings. Jackson Phipps closed it out with two hitless frames, striking out three.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.