Former Cheney players get to shine at home
It was billed as an exhibition game, which means it could have been a ho-hum deal with a who cares outcome.
But last Thursday’s baseball game between the Cheney AA American Legion SummerHawks and the Spokane Blue Devils Senior Legion baseball teams was a mixture of some fun, but a place where both teams got work done at the Ballpark in Cheney.
The visiting Blue Devils won the contest 9-4 where three former Blackhawks/SummerHawks – Drew Henry, Austin Harding and Tyler Gustafson – not only got to play at home again against some of their former teammates, but also contributed to their team’s cause.
“We talked about it and about how big of a deal – I don’t know if to them – but to me it’s big to kind of show off our program,” Blue Devils’ head coach Tony Byrne said.
And show off they did as Henry got on base five times with a pair of singles, a double, a walk and a dropped third strike. Harding had a pair of singles and a double while Gustafson walked twice. All three scored.
Both teams had thin rosters with players missing and each coach reinserted players into the lineup. Cheney even sprinkled in double-rostered players from their A Legion team into the game.
The game allowed Cheney’s head coach Randy Elam to give some of his players extra work on a light week that saw them play just two games.
“We have a few guys who haven’t thrown a lot,” Elam said. “I thought Alex Berman did a pretty good job, he just got in a few situations where he wasn’t consistent enough.”
The Blue Devils jumped to a 2-0 lead in their half of the first when Henry singled, got to third on Harding’s double and scored on a single from Chris Downey out of North Central. Harding scored on a Mason Beach (Shadle) sacrifice fly.
Cheney answered back with Logan Pratt and Kyle Jones getting back-to –back singles and each scoring to tie it at 2-2.
The Blue Devils moved back into the lead in their half of the second when Harding’s fielder’s choice scored Dalton Erickson to cap a two-run inning for a 4-2 lead. The Blue Devils stayed ahead.
“You play up a level and make mistakes, you get it mid-thigh high, belt high you’re going to pay for it,” Elam explained.
And that’s the way it stayed until the top of the fourth when Gustafson walked and scored on Henry’s double to right-center to make it 5-2. Harding followed with a sharp single down the left field line and would later score on a Beach single and it was 6-2. The Blue Devils would tack on one more run in the inning and lead 7-2.
The SummerHawks loaded the bases on a walk to Anthony Hartman and consecutive singles from Shane Hammel and Brannon Pederson before a sacrifice fly by Hammel scored Pederson.
The Blue Devils got the run back in their half of the fifth and it came with two outs. After Merrick Kellogg got on board with a walk, advancing to third on a pair of passed balls, Henry’s RBI single made it an 8-3 game.
Cheney got it to 8-4 on Josh Arthur’s one-out solo home run to center, and threatened to make it a game again following back-to-back singles from Kyle Jones and Kyle Barsness. But Devils’ pitcher Chris Downey from North Central struck out the final two batters.
The Blue Devils capped the scoring with NC’s Jordan Wertman smacking a solo round tripper down the left field line in the sixth. Wertman closed it out getting Cheney on three straight outs in the seventh.
“I’ve always taken the pre-game stuff as serious as the game stuff,” Byrne said. “So we got a pre-game workout in and each kid probably got four at-bats.”
He called Thursday’s game “active rest” since his team is thin on the mound. “For a lot of guys three innings is like a day of rest for some of them.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.