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Ramstein ends regular season with a sweep of Kaiserslautern

Kaiserslautern's George Stephan, left, is caught out at first by Ramstein's Chandler Baker in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Saturday, May 19, 2018.

MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

By GREGORY BROOME | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 19, 2018

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- Teachable baseball moments were plentiful Saturday as the Ramstein Royals completed a dramatic 6-5 comeback victory over the host Kaiserslautern Raiders.

While the Royals learned not to give up, the Raiders learned - the hard way - not to let up.

“It was one brief moment where we lacked concentration,” Kaiserslautern coach Justin Bates said. “And you can see how that one brief moment can turn into something big and can allow a team like Ramstein to kind of kick the door open and have a big inning.”

Specifically, that big inning was a sixth-run top of the sixth that suddenly wiped away the 5-0 lead the Raiders had spent the preceding five innings steadily building and protecting. The home team scored a run apiece in the second and third innings and secured what seemed to be adequate insurance with a three-run fifth.

The Royals weren't deterred by Kaiserslautern's success.

“(Don’t) worry about what the other team is doing, just worry about what we can control,” Ramstein coach Travis Shoffner said. “Make the plays that we’re supposed to, hit when we’re supposed to.”

Ramstein did just that as it crafted the go-ahead rally in the top of the final inning, then prevented a Raider response in the bottom of the sixth.

The victory was a landmark for a young Royal squad that shoulders the burden of the school’s half-decade Division I championship streak without the level of depth and experience that defined those title squads. First-year head coach Shoffner has nine freshmen on the roster, over half of whom are regular starters, and the team’s only senior is pitcher Nemo Kindle, a recent transfer from Baumholder.

Freshman outfielder Jeremy LeClair, who had a key hit in Ramstein’s rally Saturday, said that it’s “kind of weird” to have stepped into an immediate starting role for the storied program. But with the guidance of the team’s handful of upperclassmen and an established model of success to follow, the new Royals are finding their way.

“It’s pretty challenging,” LeClair said. “Sometimes I don’t do that well, but I just have to get over it. I know my team will always back me up.”

Each team’s character is due to be tested next week in the DODEA-Europe Division I tournament, running Thursday through Saturday at Ramstein and Kaiserslautern. Both teams are likely to secure high seeds in that bracket, though the field of contenders is among the deepest in recent seasons. 

Again, Shoffner wants his team to focus only on its own performance.

“It’s just getting them to that point to where they can actually believe that they can, they can see come to fruition all the stuff they’ve been doing in practice,” Shoffner said.

Bates hopes Saturday’s collapse serves as a cautionary tale for a Raider team that was flush with confidence after a triumphant march through Italy the prior weekend.

“We just hope that our guys understand that come tournament time, you can’t allow even that slightest mental breakdown to happen,” Bates said.

Nathan Kranz had a pair of RBI to pace Ramstein in the opener. Kenyon Jiles had two hits and two RBI for the Raiders.

Ramstein completed the doubleheader sweep with a 7-3 win in the late game. Kranz knocked in three more runs, Tieran Shoffner and Christopher Guzaldo had three hits apiece and Kindle struck out six over six innings to earn the win for the Royals.

Wiesbaden 12/15, Vicenza 2/0: Saturday at Wiesbaden, the host Warriors easily handled the Cougars.

Wiesbaden’s Jesper Carbajal struck out five in three innings of one-hit ball in the opener. He found plenty of support at the plate, led by a two-RBI outing by Michael Wieland.

Wieland took the ball in the late game and posted six-strikeout shutout. Finn Swafford, Bobby Kennedy and Josh Blake each drove in two runs for the Warriors.

The sweep is the third straight for Wiesbaden, which took two games apiece from SHAPE and Vilseck in its previous outings.

Naples 10/8, Sigonella 2/1: Saturday at Naples, the Wildcats trounced the visiting Jaguars.
Zach Shared had two RBI in the opener and two hits in the late game to pace Naples, which will enter the Division I tournament next week.

Alex Ogletree launched a solo home run in the late game for defending Division II/III champion Sigonella.

Stuttgart 7/15, Vilseck 6/5: Saturday at Stuttgart, the Panthers used a pair of late-inning pushes to earn a Division I sweep.

The Panthers scored five runs in the fifth inning to pull ahead of the opener, and pitcher Gabe Simpson limited the Falcons with a six-inning, eight-strikeout effort.

An eight-run fourth inning in the second game expanded Stuttgart’s narrow second-inning lead to double-digit territory.

Cameron Schuler had two RBI in each game to lead the Panther offense.

broome.gregory@stripes.com

Twitter: @broomestripes

Kaiserslautern's Justice Harper, right, runs to first as Mark Hoyt makes it home during a game in Kaiserslautern, Germany, on Saturday, May 19, 2018. Kaiserslautern lost to Ramstein 6-5.
MICHAEL B. KELLER/STARS AND STRIPES

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