GREENVILLE — Charlie Braman entered the batting box with a golden opportunity ahead of him — a dream most kids dream of.
Braman saw the bases packed with no-one Greenville Yellow Jackets in a tied game late in the seventh inning at Stankey Field.
In his previous three plate appearances, Braman didn’t see the pitches he wanted to hit. He struck out in the first and walked in the third and fifth innings. Braman threw an 0-1 pitch to center fielder to drive Logan Boyer in and give the Yellow Jackets (2-6) a 4-3 victory over the Tri County Vikings on Friday.
“I was just looking for a swing, saw one and took a chance,” Braman said. “I just finished the job. … It feels good to go get that one, go over there and swing the bat and do the rest.
Tri County had just tied the game in the top of the sixth inning, after leading 3-0 – a two-out rally, fueled by three errors from Nico Marquez, Caden Welch and Andrew Caswell. Both Marquez and Welch’s errors were in-field errors on ground balls that jumped past their gloves, while Caswell’s error was a pitching error on a pick-off that tagged Owen Behrenwald.
Heading into the sixth inning, the Vikings struggled to find base runners of any kind. Caswell, the Jacket’s starting pitcher, was dominant on the mound. He finished the game with three runs (all unearned) on two hits, no walks, and 11 strikeouts in an all-game effort.
TC pitched Tyler Tompkins, who went three innings, allowing one run on four hits. He walked one and hit one. Isaiah England went the next 1.1 innings, allowing two runs on a hit with two walks. Hayden Figley was charged with the loss after going 1.2+, allowing a run on two hits, intentionally walking two and striking out one.
“We weren’t very aggressive with our sticks,” TC coach Shawn Nelson said. “As the game progressed we started to find our sticks and hit the ball well. We tied it up, what more could you ask for? We tied it up and made a ball game out of it.
Greenville took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on a base hit by Logan Schunemann to lead Welch. The Jackets put the runners in scoring position in the second and third innings, but couldn’t get them home.
Schunemann got his second RBI of the game with a sacrificial fly down the middle, leading to Welch, who had a previous batting RBI to lead to Logan Boyer on picking a defenseman with TC shortstop Nate Lovell throwing to the home and missing the mark for receiver Trent Behrenwald to tag Boyer.
TC made up for it in the next half inning, going three no-hitters with three errors blamed on the Yellow Jacket defense.
“We have a 10-second rule that says, ‘Nothing really matters after 10 seconds and you reset,'” Yellow Jackets head coach Ed Milam said. “They came back and closed (TC) and got the point they needed, that’s a good thing. These guys show a lot of character.
The sixth inning of Friday’s opener was eye-opening for both teams. Both teams showed their true colors in Friday’s opener, each coach said. The Yellow Jackets showed courage and determination to shake off a tough sixth set and find the winning run, while the Vikings showed their unity to play as a united front and come back to tie the game in the sixth.
“We have a slogan, ‘United we stand,'” Nelson said. “It’s easy when you’re struggling in baseball to be like, ‘OK, this is how it goes’ and let it go. Fighting and playing as a team with everyone working together. … I thought that we had played a real clean game and (Greenville) is playing well.
“They just don’t give up,” Milam said. “No matter the score, no matter the elements – they pull through and give their all and it’s wonderful to see. They’re resilient. They get rid of every little thing and give their all and I couldn’t ask more than that. It would be easy to give up after taking the lead, and then they catch up and we’re all deflated. But they rallied around each other, which is really cool.
Braman’s base hit that ended Friday’s opener of the doubleheader was set up by a Boyer brace to start the inning. Welch then received an intentional walk, awarding him first base. Both runners advanced on a refusal from Figley. Schunemann, the Yellow Jacket at plate, then received an intentional walk to load the bases with no one on and set the stage for Braman’s game-winning shot.
“It’s really great for Charlie to be able to get up there in that kind of situation under pressure, with the game on the line, and hit a great shot,” Milam said. “It’s good for his confidence. It’s good for the team, they’re all excited.
The Yellow Jackets are next at Forest Hills Central at 10 a.m. today while the Vikings’ next game is scheduled for 4 p.m. Tuesday in Grant.
Friday’s game served as a mental health awareness game for Greenville. The players wore white jerseys with “Jackets” written in green print, the color of mental health awareness. The jerseys included a #stopthestigma on the back.
Milam is a pastor at First Congregational Church in Greenville and has said he is an advocate for mental health among today’s youth. Perks like Friday’s game are important to him.
“Coming out of COVID, mental health was a big issue,” Milam said. “Not just for adults, but for our young people. Their school years have been messed up for the past two years and we really need to focus on people’s mental health and wellbeing, being a part of that is pretty cool. … It’s nice to be able to help people. In the halls of our schools, there are many children who could use this kind of help, because it is stressful to be a young person these days. So being able to ask the right questions, being able to say, “A child is not only broken, but what broke him?”, those kinds of things and being able to love them, really helps them find a positive mindset. the game is on point. Raise awareness of the needs of our youth in our community.
“I’ve been coaching since 1994. Watching these kids and taking care of them, taking care of them, hopefully at the end of the day they know they matter, that we care about them more than baseball. It’s nice to be able to impact someone’s life by being a positive influence – that’s what we try to do. We try to give them the best of ourselves so that they can be at their best and feel important, needed, valued. There’s so much of our world and social media and everything else dragging people down. They need positives, they need uplifting things – that’s what we try to do.