BANGOR, Maine — They were up, down, and up some more, and were breathing major sighs of relief after the final out.
U.S. Central champ Madison, Wis., saw a 4-2 lead over South Vineland, N.J., vaporize into a 6-4 deficit, but Madison plated four two-out runs in the bottom of the fifth inning while Sean Blythe was solid in relief en route to an 8-6 win over the U.S. East representatives in Pool B action at Mansfield Stadium.
Both teams are 1-1.
The bottom of Madison’s order responded in the fifth, with walks to Josh Horman and Andy Mack squeezed around a Nate Hall base hit after New Jersey reliever Holvin Figueroa had gotten two quick outs.
Figueroa hit Stefan Schiltz with a 3-1 pitch to force in a run to cut Madison’s lead to 6-5 while a bases-loaded walk to Kody Parman tied the game.
Abe Lenloch then gave Madison the lead for good with a two-run, seeing-eye single up the middle.
“I just really wanted to put the ball in play because I knew if I put it in play anything would happen,” said Lenloch. “Luckily it was a slow roller up the middle that went through and we forced them to make a play at home and they didn’t make it.”
Blythe, who came on in relief in the fifth, allowed just one baserunner the rest of the way to nail down the victory.
“I just wanted to throw strikes because I knew my teammates could make the plays behind me,” he said.
Blythe fulfilled the faith that manager Frank Lenoch had in him.
“He’s just been composed, that’s why we like him in the closer position,” said Lenoch.
Pitching and defense, which have been New Jersey’s strengths throughout all-star play, have been its Achilles’ heel so far in the SLWS, as manager Carlos Negron’s club made four errors.
“It was very tough, we hurt ourselves again in this game,” said Negron, whose team committed five errors in its opening game Sunday night.
“I’m surprised that we’re committing so many errors, we’ve been living by our pitching and defense up until the last two games.”
Squandered opportunities proved costly as well, as South Vineland had the bases loaded and nobody out in the second and could not score.
“You’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities when you have men on the bases,” said Negron.
Chris Bell shined for New Jersey in the loss, banging out three triples, including an RBI shot in the first to plate the game’s initial run, and he broke the record for most triples in an entire SLWS.
Ten players had been tied with two apiece.