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UPDATED: Choccolocco Monsters still looking for their first win at home after dropping a one-run game to Columbus

Columbus starter Clay Weatherly held the Monsters to one hit through four innings before they got to him in fifth (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD – The most perplexing part of the Choccolocco Monsters’ first season in the Sunbelt Baseball League continued Friday night when they lost another home game, 5-4 to sister team Columbus.

NEXT: Sat., at Columbus,
6:05 p.m. WVOK-FM (97.9).

The loss left them 0-9 for the season at Choccolocco Park and they’re running out of games to get it right. With five home games to play, folks are inquiring minds are starting to wonder if any team has ever gone winless at home in an SBL season.

Monsters manager Steve Gillispie can’t explain why it’s happening. But he sure can tell what causes it.

“When you play bad baseball you’re not going win at Oxford’s Signature Field, you’re not going to win at Oxford’s Little League Field, you’re not going to win at Oxford-Cambridge, you’re just not going to win,” Gillispie said.

“We were bad. We didn’t pitch clean early, defensively we were a train wreck early and we didn’t have quality at bats. But we were the only thing worse than some of those calls that both teams had.”

Gillispie made those feelings known in the sixth inning when he got tossed for the first time this season for arguing the placement of the tag that got Brant Deerman picked off first in a two-run game.

“I complimented him and got thrown out,” Gillispie said, citing the umpire’s unique perspective on the tag and courage to give him the hook.

The Monsters (6-12) had some good moments, but there was plenty of bad. They gave up three unearned runs in the first three innings and had another error that contributed to another run in the fifth when the Hoots extended the lead to 5-0. Take those out and they might have won 4-1.

Telaga got the first two outs of the game, then Cameron Gray reached when the pitcher covering couldn’t hold Tyler Waugh’s flip after a hard hopper to first. Win Johns followed with a two-run homer over the left-field fence.

Telaga got the first two out in the third, too, then Simms Owens walked and quickly stole second and third. Gray walked and then Johns hit a ball to third that could’ve been the third out, but Wendell Perry’s throw pulled Waugh off the bag and a run scored. The Hoots added two more in the fourth to make it 5-0.

“You’ve got to finish hitters to get in a position to finish an inning and if it’s the last hitter then you finish the inning,” Gillispie said. That’s exactly how we talk about it and it hasn’t happened enough and I don’t know why it doesn’t happen here more, but this is where we struggle.”

Austin Goode, David Cherwonuk and Harris Burns followed Telaga to the mound and the left-handed Cherwonuk was the most effective. A tweak in his mechanics last week led to him throwing three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, a walk and striking out four.

The southpaw who’ll ultimately end up at the Naval Academy has been sharp all year, but the tweak came after he gave up four runs in one inning against Gwinnett last Friday and seemed to do the trick. The runs against the Astros are the only runs he’s allowed in five appearances this season.

“I sped up my arm faster and as I was speeding up my arm I rotated my hips right before foot strike and just from that little arm speed increase that allowed me throw strikes more consistently,” he said. “I picked up velocity. I sat 86-87 and topped at 88.1. It really cleaned up a lot of balls missing outside and allowed a lot of horizontal movement. 

“I picked it up a couple days ago. I didn’t do that last outing and wondered what’s happening. I thought it through and realized I kept missing up and out. It’s just a little thing, but it allows more strikes. A lot of deception, too.”

Hoots starter Clay Weatherly was deceiving the Monsters for four innings, but they finally got to him in the fifth. Jake Spivey got the Monsters on the board with an RBI ground up and Leger hit a two-run single off reliever Trevor Horn to get the Monsters back in the game and close the book on Weatherly.

The relievers gave the Monsters a chance and they did bring the tying run to the plate in the ninth after Josh Cooper beat a rundown to score, but ultimately came up short at home again.

“I truly don’t know what to say, it’s just tough luck,” Leger said of the home-road disparity. “We do good on the road, so let’s just go win on the road tomorrow (at Columbus).

“It is weird. I just hope when we win they don’t announce it as our first win at this stadium because it’ll be kind of embarrassing. Let’s just say it’s a win.”

MONSTERS MASH: Entering Friday’s game the Monsters had as many hits at home as they did on the road, where they’re 6-3 (72 each). The more telling stat might be their 7.73 home ERA compared to 4.23 on the road … Monsters entered Friday’s game 2.5 games out of the final wild card spot with 11 to play. The SBL playoffs will have the three division winners and next three best overall records. Gillispie was asked to help coach the All-Star Game but as athletics director of Oak Mountain Academy in Carrollton had to decline to attend the Georgia high school summer meetings … Brandon Prince played his last game with the Monsters Friday. The SBL’s second-leading hitter came out after the seventh with a sore back. He had planned to leave after this weekend anyway to concentrate on the upcoming college season/draft. He isn’t expected to return if he makes the All-Star Game. Josh Cooper, Will Griffith and Daniel Swatek are likely Monsters All-Stars … Fifteen of the Monsters’ 18 games this season have come against teams leading their division.

Columbus             201 200 000 – 5 7 2
Choccolocco       000 030 001 – 4 3 4
WP: Trevor Horn (1-0). LP: Garrett Telaga (0-3). S: Ashton Shackleford. 2B: Zane Ross (Col). HR: Win Johns (Col).

Former Alexandria pitcher Austin Goode was the first of three Monsters relievers who combined for six shutout innings to give his team a chance to et back in the game. (Photo by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

Gainesville GolDiggers155.750
Waleska Wild Things88.5005
Alpharetta Aviators414.22210
Atlanta Crackers105.667
Atlanta Blues109.5262
Brookhaven Bucks99.5002.5
Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots98.529
Gwinnett Astros77.5000.5
Choccolocco Monsters612.3333.5

Friday’s Games
Atlanta Blues 17, Gwinnett 4
Brookhaven 6, Gainesville 5
Waleska at Atlanta Crackers
Columbus 5, Choccolocco 4

Saturday’s Games
Gwinnett at Atlanta Crackers (2), 1:05 p.m.
Gainesville at Brookhaven, 5:35 p.m.
Alpharetta at Waleska, 6:05 p.m.
Choccolocco at Columbus, 6:05 p.m.

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