By Connor Wiggins
The Rippers out of Brandon, MS and the Stars from Chandler, AZ went face-to-face Friday at noon in the SlumpBuster for the right to stay in the winner's bracket. Six innings of hard-fought baseball went the Rippers' way, 7-6.
Ryan Harwood got the nod in this game for the Stars on the mound. The starter had a difficult first inning as the Rippers scored on a wild pitch and a grounder that plated a runner from third base.
Rippers ace, Will Bizot, started on the mound for his team. Bizot gave up a lead-off triple to Parker Rahn but recovered and retired the next three batters he faced.
In the top of the second inning, Harwood got into a groove and went 1-2-3 with two strikeouts to put a halt to the bats of the Rippers.
Bizot struck another batter out in the bottom of the inning but also made a mistake as he attempted to pick a runner off at second base with nobody at the bag to put the tag on. The runner ran all the way home but was thrown out at the plate by the center fielder to end the inning with no damage done.
Connor Russell came onto the mound in the top of the third inning to pitch for the Stars and gave up three more runs on only one hit. The Stars’ defense had trouble in the inning as the two other runs they allowed were both scored on throwing errors by their shortstop. The deficit escalated to five runs.
Nothing was going for the Stars at the plate in the bottom of the inning as Bizot had a 1-2-3 inning and a spectacular pick-off at first base.
The top of the fourth inning was short lived for the Rippers at the dish as the Stars’ defense helped Russell to a 1-2-3 inning.
Bizot responded with another 1-2-3 inning of his own and got another strikeout.
“My fastball was good and my knuckleball was working,” Bizot said.
The Stars needed runs in a hurry but they had no answer for the Rippers’ ace.
Defense highlighted the Star's play yet again as they stepped up in the top of the fifth inning, helping Russell go 1-2-3 once more. At that moment, 12 straight batters had been retired in the game from both sides combined, but arms got tired and bats got hot in the bottom of the inning.
Bizot saw six more batters in the bottom of the fifth inning and earned his fourth strikeout of the day before he was taken out of the game and replaced by Paxton Prisock. None of the three runs in the inning from the Stars were earned, as one run scored on an error from the catcher, another from an error from the shortstop and the last on a wild pitch from Bizot.
Prisock walked the first batter he faced but no more damage was done in the inning when the Rippers’ catcher caught the runner on third with a big lead and threw him out to move to the sixth inning.
Taylor Latham delivered at the plate in the top of the sixth inning for the Rippers, driving in a run on a single. Latham made his way to third base and later scored another run for his team as the Stars’ catcher threw down to second to throw out a stealing Bizot; he was safe and so was Latham.
The Rippers lead was extended by two more runs going into the bottom of the sixth and last inning.
Rahn and Brayden Waggoner each had base hits to start off the last inning for the Stars. Rahn scored a run from third base on an error from the second baseman to cut the deficit to three runs. The Stars scored two more runs on a sacrifice fly and a passed ball, but a ground ball to the shortstop ended the game at 7-6.
Rippers head coach Jason Latham was pleased with his team and the way they battled.
“These boys played with heart and they just never gave up,” Latham said, who also had high praise for his ace.
“This kid is going to have a career that everyone will remember,” Latham said. “He’s got a heart of gold, he’s a bulldog on the mound and I had no doubt that Will would perform like that today.”
NW Rankin Rippers will play against Kangaroo Court Roos at 10 a.m. on Saturday in the winner's bracket while Chandler Stars will play against BN Mavericks at 8 a.m. in the losers bracket.