Regardless of whether or not Shelton’s American Legion team qualifies for the U19 state playoffs, the season — in some ways — can be deemed a success.
Shelton went into its Wednesday, July 12, regular-season finale against Oakville clinging to a half-game lead over Oxford (which went into the middle of the week with two games to play) and holding onto the fourth and final playoff spot among Zone V competitors.
“I’m proud of them that we made it this far,” said Shelton coach Tom Murphy, alluding to the fact last summer’s squad didn’t make it through the summer because of having to forfeit games due to a shortage of committed players.
Murphy credits role players Callum Zak, Trent Dias and Collin Mengold for being reliable and stepping in to contribute when and where needed to sacrifice bunt or fill in defensively, for example.
“They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do. We would not have been able to finish the season without kids like them,” Murphy said. “They’ve had their key moments in games.”
Shelton fell 3-2 to visiting Monroe, the second-place team in Zone V, on Tuesday night, and dropped to 11-12 overall. Oakville, the Zone V leader, has just one loss, meaning Shelton potentially stands to have its work cut out to qualify unless Oxford drops one of its final two contests.
Shelton has had several players step in and toe the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. In fact, 10 team members have tossed 11 or 12 innings each, Murphy said.
Carl Kopf entered the game against Masuk in the second inning and gave his team six solid innings, allowing only one run in relief of Ryan Murphy.
Because Monroe is one of the top hitting teams in all of Legion play, coach Murphy opted to use Ryan Murphy since the hurler throws a variety of off-speed pitches.
“Good hitting teams don’t like to see junk pitchers like that,” Murphy said.
But Monroe took advantage of a trio of walks, a hit batter, and a base hit to scratch out a pair of opening-frame runs. It marked the first time in four outings this summer that Ryan Murphy allowed an earned run.
Kopf mostly silenced Monroe’s bats the rest of the way.
“He did a great job,” Murphy said. “Our pitching’s been great.”
Shelton’s hurlers have kept the team in games, and Kopf’s effort gave Shelton a chance against Monroe.
“We put a couple of innings together where we got some runs across. Their pitcher was gutting. His arm was hurting him and he was telling us. We just ran out of gas at the end there,” Murphy said.
Monroe’s Luke Shaffer managed to toss a complete game and worked around some trouble, including in the seventh when Shelton put two on with one out.
David Wells was hit by a pitch and stole second base. Monroe opted to intentionally walk Craig McNamara, and thwarted the threat with a game-ending double play.
Down 2-0 in the bottom of the third, Shelton cut the deficit in half when Wells led off with a single, stole second, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on McNamara’s crisp single to center field.
Monroe reclaimed its two-run edge in the top of the fifth on an RBI single off the bat of Zach Boyle, set up by an error and a walk.
Shelton inched closer in the bottom of the fifth. Wells, the team’s leadoff hitter, again got things started with a single. A hit and run single by Ryan Murphy put runners on the corners, and Matt Hunyadi hit a sacrifice fly to right, making it 3-2.
Ryan Murphy, who moved behind the plate, threw out a would-be base stealer in the seventh.