High School Baseball

Little’s big play sparks Falcons to playoff series sweep

By Dennis Silva II, Sports Editor
Posted 5/8/21

Jack Little’s steal of home plate with two outs in the third inning of Game 2 of Tompkins’ bi-district playoff series against Elkins not only represented a thrilling play, but also substantial growth for the Falcons. Yes, it only gifted Tompkins a three-run lead at the time, and, yes, there was still a lot of baseball left to be played.

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High School Baseball

Little’s big play sparks Falcons to playoff series sweep

Posted

Jack Little’s steal of home plate with two outs in the third inning of Game 2 of Tompkins’ bi-district playoff series against Elkins not only represented a thrilling play, but also substantial growth for the Falcons. Yes, it only gifted Tompkins a three-run lead at the time, and, yes, there was still a lot of baseball left to be played.

But the junior’s second stolen base of the inning did seem to change the game’s spirit and was indicative of improved execution these days by Tompkins, which eventually routed Elkins, 12-2, in five innings to sweep the Knights at Tompkins High and advance to next week’s area playoffs against Stratford.

“We started working on it in practice this week,” Little said. “We called it and it worked. Once (the pitcher) came set, I just went.”

Execution such as that on Little’s play was critical for Tompkins in its series win. The Falcons are doing the little things better, like sacrificing hits to score runs, taking the extra base when the opportunity presents itself, and communicating on defense.

As devastating as Tompkins’ hitting prowess can be—indeed, it was senior shortstop Graiden West’s three-run crush of a curveball to left field in the fifth inning that wrapped up the run-rule win—“small ball” can be just as effective.

Case in point: Little’s steal, which was one of seven for the Falcons in the series.

“It’s huge,” West said. “You see the other team get down on themselves, and when that happens, we had to take advantage of it and pick things up and get going. It was a big play. Brought a lot of energy. I love the energy in the dugout right now.”

In the short history of Tompkins’ baseball program, coach Kyle Humphreys said he may have called that play seven times and it has maybe worked five times.

“That was the first time we’ve done it all year, to be honest,” Humphreys said. “It’s not like you can do it all the time. It’s a good one off a lefty pitcher. We’ve worked on it just in case the scenario rises, and it did.”

Offensively, the Falcons are playing impressive baseball. After pounding Knights pitching for 10 hits in a 14-3 Game 1 win on Friday, Tompkins had seven hits in Game 2. Falcons hitters walked 14 times in the series.

“We’re doing a good job not swinging at bad pitches and hitting the ball hard, making things happen,” Little said.

Defensively, Humphreys is concerned that he may not have a true ace pitcher.

In the past, the Falcons have always managed to have a No. 1 arm, sometimes two in the same season. But while they lacked depth in the past, that is not the case this season.

Humphreys started sophomore left-hander Ty Dagley in Game 1, and he allowed one earned run on three hits while striking out three and walking two in four innings. Junior Trevor Esparza came on for two scoreless innings of relief, striking out two and walking one.

In Game 2, junior left-hander Solomon Rotberg got the start and went 4 1/2 innings, allowing no earned runs on one hit, striking out two and walking four. Junior right-hander Michael DeBattista came on briefly in relief, throwing just three pitches and getting a strikeout in his one-third inning of work.

“The guys we have on the mound are doing a great job,” Humphreys said. “We’ve just got to pitch and get ahead of batters. As we keep going through the playoffs, if we don’t get ahead of guys in the count, they’ll do some damage.”

The Falcons know they can hit with anyone. Offense has been the backbone of their 28-5-1 record so far. But they understand that if they want to get to state, let alone win it, it will be their ability to prevent runs that will make the difference.

“Our pitching was on point this series, and that’s what we need to win games,” West said. “Our defense, too. We’ve cleaned our pitching up, cleaned our defense up. We know we’re going to swing the bats. The key to going to state is defense and pitching. We struggled early on with our defense, and we worked that a lot. We’ve stayed later after practice and really got working, doing our jobs. Becoming better teammates and better players. Just really getting after it.”

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