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Spangdahlem stays perfect in division by edging Aviano

Spangdahlem ace Max Little watches his pitch approach home plate in the Sentinels' 6-4 victory over Aviano on Saturday, May 12, 2018.

KENT HARRIS/STARS AND STRIPES

By KENT HARRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 12, 2018

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy – If the baseball gods had their way, Spangdahlem’s Max Little and Sigonella’s Alex Ogletree would take the mound with the DODEA-Europe Division II/III title on the line.

But the two most dominant pitchers in the division – both of whom expect to pitch next year in college in the States – might not get that chance. Even if their teams reach the finals.

The rule prohibiting pitchers from throwing more than 45 pitchers on consecutive days is one big factor. Teams from Aviano, Rota and Hohenfels are the others.

The Sentinels pounded the Saints 18-1 on Friday and Little struck out all six batters he faced in a second game called for rain.

But on Saturday, Aviano – 3-11 in division play after the day ended – gave Spangdahlem – now 5-0 in divisional play – all it wanted.

“That’s a good question,” Spangdahlem coach Daniel Little said when asked about the difference between the two days. “I think we woke Aviano up.”

Spangdahlem 6, Aviano 4: After a scoreless first inning in the nightcap, the Sentinels scored four times in the second and two in the third. Run-scoring singles from Robert Lawrence and Josiah Mower put Spangdahlem up 6-0 and the game looked over.

But Nick Smith took off his catching gear to pitch and shut the Sentinels down the rest of the way.
Aviano scored twice in the fourth and loaded the bases to put the tying run at the plate. Spangdahlem got out of that, but Little – who had started the game and gone three innings before moving to first base – had to come in with the bases loaded and no outs in the fifth. He gave up a two-run single to Logan Landrum – the only hit he allowed the Saints all weekend – and then hit another batter to load the bases again. But he then struck out two batters and fielded a grounder to end the threat and the game.

Still, the loss left the Saints – winless last season – some hope with the championships less than two weeks away.

“It gives me a lot of encouragement,” Aviano coach Frank Lewandowski said. “When Nick or Jacob (Gamboa) pitch, we can play with anybody.”

Spangdahlem 4, Aviano 3: Gamboa could have earned the win with some better defense behind him in the opener.

The sophomore struck out seven batters in four innings. Still the Sentinels went up 2-0 with single runs in the first and third. Aviano cut the deficit in half in the bottom of the third before two Aviano fielding errors in the outfield contributed heavily to two more Spangdahlem runs in the fourth.

The Saints trimmed the lead to one in the bottom of the inning, though, and had the winning run at second in the fifth before Little made his first appearance on the mound of the day and retired the two batters he faced to earn the save.

He earned two saves and a win in the Saturday doubleheader.

Daniel Little said he is concerned the team’s pitching is a bit thin. But he said the Sentinels are even thinner at catcher.

He’s counting that his charges are toughened by a schedule featuring Division I squads Ramstein, Kaiserslautern and Lakenheath.

“We’ve taken some beatings against the bigger schools, but we’ve kept our heads up and I think it’s going to help us,” Little said.

harris.kent@stripes.com

Aviano shortstop Jacob Gamboa throws the ball to first after fielding a grounder on Saturday, May 12, 2018.
KENT HARRIS/STARS AND STRIPES

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