For the second straight season, Gnats take home minor league championship
The Gnats pose after winning the Morristown City Championship in the minor league division on Friday night at McAmis-Sempkowski Park.
After winning the city championship last season, the Gnats set a major goal of recreating that magical feeling again this year. After cruising through the National League and picking up another opportunity to defend their crown, the Gnats achieved their goal by claiming their second straight title with an 11-9 victory over the Crickets at McAmis Sempkowski Field on Friday night.
Gnats coach John Dalton said he was proud of his team for defeating the odds and winning their second straight title.
“I was so pleased with our play tonight because we played our longest game of the year and it took almost perfect concentration,” said Dalton. “With their being no time limit, we had to stay composed and we did just that. Most of our games have been three innings this year, so going six innings is very tough on both teams. You have to take your hats off to the Crickets. They are well coached team and they are extremely disciplined.”
Despite picking up a slim two-run win, the game took an unexpected twist in the top of the sixth inning as the Crickets rallied from an 11-4 deficit.
Due to a seven-run allotment rule, the best the Crickets could do in the top of the sixth was tie the game at 11, but the Gnats were able to close out the victory at 11-9.
Leading 11-4 in the top of the sixth, the Gnats depended on relief pitcher and 9-year old Lance Fugate to close the door. However, the Crickets made a hard task as they pushed across five runs. Noah Elmore highlighted the inning with a three-run inside-the park home run, while Connor McFadyen added a two-run double for the Crickets.
Early in the contest, the Gnats upped their lead to 3-0 after one inning and eventually led 7-1 after three innings. Braxton Dalton picked up a two-run double in the bottom of the second inning, while Jackson Shisler added a RBI single in the third inning.
In the fourth inning, the Crickets closed the gap to 7-4 with a three-run showing. Christopher Braddock and Chase Rouse highlighted the inning with RBIs. Leading by only three runs, the Gnats responded with a three-run fourth inning and an insurance run in the fifth to push the lead back to a comfortable 11-4 advantage.
Fugate helped himself on the mound with a two-run double in the fourth inning, while Shisler crossed home plate in the fifth inning.
Coach Dalton said he was also pleased with two other elements on Friday night.
“We scored like six or seven runs with two outs,” added Dalton. “As a coach, you have to love that. Also, I thought our pitching combination of Dalton and Fugate worked out well.”
Both Dalton and Fugate led the way with a double and a single, while Micah Simpson added two runs scored in the victory. Braddock, McFadyen, and Elmore all finished with two hits for the Crickets.
-By Chris Ayers, Assistant Sports Editor