aPOPka go the bats
As Apopka, Flordia would find out in front of 9,900 at Lamade Stadium Tuesday evening, hitting is contagious.
The Apopka Little League All-Stars qualified for the U.S. semifinal Wednesday night by beating Davenport Iowa, 10-3.
Davenport was the first to put up a run on the board. With Chirs Kolar on second, Willie Argo sent a screaming grounder up the middle. Apopka shortstop Stuart Tapley was able to get his glove on the ball and tag second for the force out. Tapley overthrew first baseman Ryan Markell in his attempt to turn the double play, and Kolar was able to come home on the error.
Davenport scored again in the second inning. This time it was a solo jack by catcher Dustin Nickels that put runs on the board for Iowa.
That was all Apopka manager Bob Brewer wanted to see from his starting pitcher. With no outs in the second inning, Josh Tanski was pulled off of the mound in favor of Stuart Tapley.
In his first inning, Tapley didn’t fare much better than Tanski. He gave up a sacrifice bunt, a fielder’s choice and two walks to allow Iowa another run.
After the third inning, Tapley did not allow a hit. He struck out ten overall.
“I just did my best,” he said. “That is all that I can do.”
Apopka rallied in the third inning to tie the game at 3-3. Justin Lafavers scored on a bloop single by Markell for Apopka’s first run of the game. Blanekship then crossed the plate on a sharply hit grounder up the middle by Josh Tanski. Markell tied up the game, scoring on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Jeff Lovejoy.
“We were kinda shaken in the dugout when we went down three runs,” Brandon Brewer said. “So we started taking a few pitches, and our bats woke up.”
Blankenship came up big for his team once again in the fourth inning. The left fielder turned on a Kolar fastball and pulled it deep over the fence. Blankenship’s home run put his team up by a run, with two innings separating Apopka and the U.S. semifinal.
“I hit it off the handle a little bit,” he said. “But I knew that it was gone.”
Apopka’s bats really got going in the fifth inning. Andrew Cobb led off the inning with a 215-foot shot over the left field fence. Four batters later, Brandon Brewer added another three runs to Apopka’s running tally with a shot of his own. After a single by Lafavers, Blankenship sent his second ball of the game into the lawn seating in the outfield. By the time Davenport had stopped the bleeding, Apopka was up 10-3.
- David Graham-Caso