White Team Tops Maroons 8-4

Only once in Coach Ron Polk's tenure has a rookie team defeated the veteran lineup in the annual fall Maroon-White Game. 2004 was no exception to the rule.

The veteran White side rang up five runs in the first inning and added enough margin to withstand a late Maroon comeback in a 8-4 scrimmage victory at Dudy Noble Field. The White roster was made up entirely of lettermen, while the Maroon lineup included redshirts, true freshmen and transfers, walk-ons, and lone letterman sophomore pitcher Andy Wilson. Also, medical redshirt infielders Michael Rutledge and Bunky Kateon, who made limited appearances in 2004, were on the ‘rookie' roster.

It wasn't enough as the pups came up short again. The outcome means that only the newcomer class of 1986-97 has the distinction of beating their elders in Polk's years with the Bulldogs.

Ten veteran pitchers threw an inning apiece with all the rookie damage coming in the top of the ninth, too little and too late. That one big burst did allow the Maroons to out-hit the Whites 10 safeties to 9, with half the rookie hits coming in the ninth. The younger team did leave 13 runners on bases. Junior outfielders Brad Corley and Jeff Butts led the vets with three base hits apiece, while shortstop Bunky Kateon had a triple and single for the Maroons. Butts also had a triple, while nobody came close to hitting a ball out of the park.

Under Polk's standard fall-ball format, the batting orders were identical with outfielders swinging first, then infielders, then the DHs. Neither could any tentative pitching pecking order be discerned by the scheduled rotation, which was done inning-by-inning and in alphabetical order.

While most position players alternated so everybody could take a turn in the field, every arm but Justin Pigott was limited to a single inning. The redshirt lefthander threw both the seventh and eighths for the Maroons, and his two strikeouts were best of the young pitchers. Brooks Dunn, Eric Ebers, and Josh Johnson struck out two each for the Whites, and Dunn, Ebers, Jamie Gant and Saunders Ramsey did not allow hits in their inning-each.

The Veterans got off to a fast start in the bottom of the inning, at the expense of righthander Pete Atwood. Jeff Butts drove a deep fly just off the glove of centerfielder Marshall Faulkner for a slide-in triple. Another fly ball to center by Joseph Hunter provided the sacrifice RBI.

Corley's hot grounder was just inside the third-base line for a one-out double. Juco Atwood walked Thomas Berkery, then Ben Grisham singled into centerfield for one RBI. Faulkner's throw for third went into the dugout and let Berkery come home for a 3-0 lead. Atwood walked the next three batters—Daniel Tackett, Jeffrey Rea, and Brad Jones—to force in a fourth run, and Ryan Fesmire made the count 5-0 with a fly ball to rightfield.

In the third inning Grisham reached on a one-out single off Jesse Carver and took second on a passed ball. With two outs Carver thought he had fanned Rea and ran off the mound, only to be told it was just strike two. Rea pounded the next pitch to second base and outran the throw by Mark Muzzi for an infield RBI-single. Rightfielder Jeff Flagg saved further damage as he ran down and snared a drive by Brad Jones.

A leadoff walk by Trent Hill in the bottom of the fifth eventually became the seventh White run. Corley lined his second double into leftfield, moving Hunter around to third base where he could score easily on Berkery's sacrifice-fly to rightfield for a 7-0 score.

The Maroons had several chances to, if not win, at least avoid being shut out. White starter Brett Cleveland had two on base with two outs in the first inning and got Michael Rutledge to ground out. In the Maroon sixth a walk and steal had Rutledge on second base with one out before Eric Ebers struck out Kateon and grounded out Muzzi.

Alex McIntosh walked to lead off the Maroon seventh and Wyn Diggs was nicked with one out. Jamie Gant rolled a 5-4-3 double-play to end that threat. And in the top of the eighth when an infield single and pair of walks by Corley loaded the bases with two outs and the ‘top' of the order up. Corley got Faulkner swinging on a changeup at the ankles to strand all three runners.

The pups finally got on the board (metaphorically, since the scoreboard was not operating) in the top of the ninth, and after Josh Johnson had two outs. Rutledge singled to center, and Kateon lifted a fly ball that fell just beyond Hunter in the left-centerfield gap. It was good for a RBI-triple, and it opened a floodgate. Johnson walked Muzzi, then gave up a run-scoring double to McIntosh. Chad Crosswhite and Diggs followed with sharp singles to each plate runners and cut the deficit to 7-4 before Johnson struck out Ed Easley with a pair left on bases.

Under the gameplan the Whites took their turn in the bottom of the tenth, and produced a final run off Wilson. With two outs Butts legged out an infield single to keep the inning going, and Hunter's double into the leftfield corner let the runner slide home.

Of the veterans only outfielder Jon Mungle did not play, as he is still slowed by the March knee injury and rehabilitation process. The White starting outfield was Butts, Hunter, and Corley left-to-right, with Grisham at third base, Tackett the shortstop, Rea at second and Brad Jones at first, and Berkery catching.

The Maroons started an outfield of Richardson-Faulkner-Flagg, with the infield of Rutledge-Kateon-Muzzi-McIntosh. Eli Dew started at chatcher with Diggs, Easley, and Lewis taking alphabetical turns.

Fall practices will wrap up with the annual ‘Banana Split' intrasquad series scheduled for October 12-20, times TBA with free admission. The 11th edition of the Alumni Baseball Game is this coming Sunday, October 17, at 1:30 with over 100 former Diamond Dog greats, and not-so-greats, expected to attend.

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