E.A. Sports Today

Monsters up against it

Monsters backs are truly against the wall after falling to Blues 7-4, now 1.5 games back of final playoff spot with two to play

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

OXFORD — There has been a lot that hasn’t gone the Choccolocco Monsters’ way during their first season in the Sunbelt Baseball League, but now they need everything to go their way if they want to keep playing beyond Tuesday’s regular-season finale.

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The Monsters really have no room for error if they want to make the playoffs following Saturday’s listless 7-4 loss to the Atlanta Blues at Choccolocco Park.

With just two games against division-winner Columbus to play, the Monsters stand 1.5 games behind the Brookhaven Bucks for the last remaining playoff spot in the six-team SBL playoffs. They’re a half-game behind the Gwinnett Astros, who have three games to play.

“It’s bleak,” Monsters manager Steve Gillispie said. “We need help and we’ve got to win two in a row, which we’ve only done one time.

“Obviously, opportunities are still out there, but we haven’t taken advantage of those opportunities in the last two weeks when we had them, so we’ve put ourselves where we’ve got to take advantage of maybe not as good opportunities.

“Maybe that’s the kind of challenge that we needed because there is no tomorrow. Now, it’s have-to or go home and turn the stuff in. Maybe that’s what we need, to face that kind of adversity. That’s an absolute.”

Mathematically, the Monsters still have a chance, but there is no room for error.

Their best case scenario for getting in is …

(a) Gwinnett beats Brookhaven AND the Monsters beat Columbus on Monday: Gwinnett 11-15, Brookhaven 12-16, Monsters 11-16, then …

(b) Gainesville beats Gwinnett AND Monsters beat Columbus on Tuesday: Gwinnett 11-16, Brookhaven 12-16, Monsters 12-16. Monsters hold the tiebreaker over Brookhaven (2-0), then …

(c) Alpharetta beats Gwinnett in their still-to-be-rescheduled rainout of June 17: Gwinnett 11-17, because if the other scenarios happen and Gwinnett beats Alpharetta, there’s a three-way tie at 12-16. Or they could just not play and Gwinnett finishes 11-16 (.407) and 12-16 Monsters get the spot via winning percentage and tiebreaker over Brookhaven.

The playoffs start Thursday.

“We put ourselves in a bad situation early, playing bad earlier in the summer, but these (do or die) kinds of things are fun,” right-fielder Brennan McCullough said. “It’s fun when the pressure’s up. There will be a lot of people there Monday night I’m sure and hopefully there will be a lot of people here Tuesday night. It’ll be high-level baseball and we’ve got to come out and play good ball. The pressure of that, that’s what’s fun about the game. It’s a pretty cool opportunity.”

“We’ve just got to lock it in,” infielder Brant Deerman said. “I think we know it. We’re close, we’re really close, just need a couple big hits in certain situations that we haven’t gotten at certain times. I think we’re really close. We’ve just got to get some big hits when it matters.”

The worst thing that could have happened to the Monsters’ playoff hopes happened Saturday. The Blues scored three runs in the first inning and opened a 7-0 lead after four..

The first three Blues hitters reached safely against Monsters starter Garrett Telaga and all three scored. Alan Grier led off the game with a single and stole second. Tervell Johnson and Ethan Stamps hit back-to-back RBI doubles and Brennan Hudson hit a one-out run-scoring single.

The Blues extended the lead to 4-0 in the third and tacked on three in the fourth to make it 7-0. They rapped out 15 hits in the game, with Stamps and Hudson collecting three apiece. Johnson had three RBIs.

Only two spots in the lineup didn’t get a hit and the first three hitters — Grier, Johnson and Stamps — were a combined 7-for-12 with four RBIs

The Monsters finally got to Blues starter Alex Johnson and chased him on the way to scoring three runs in the sixth. Johnson had a two-hit shutout through five innings, but the Monsters put together four hits to get him out of the game.

J.J. Rapp had an RBI single, Deerman brought home a run with an infield out and another run scored when a throw back to the pitcher got away. They added another run on Brennan McCullough’s sacrifice fly in the eighth.

They had chances earlier in the game to score, but outside of the fifth couldn’t get the timely hit. They left nine runners on base, seven in scoring position. They were 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position.

“We didn’t compete,” Gillispie said. “I don’t think we were locked in ready to play and it showed for about five innings.”

They can’t have any of that happen next week if they want to keep playing.

Atlanta Blues 301 300 000 — 7  15 2
Choccolocco 000 003 010 — 4   9 1
WP: Alex Johnson (4-0). LP: Garrett Telaga (0-4). 2B: Allen Grier (A), Terrell Johnson (A), Ethan Stamps (A), Brennan Hudson (A), Brant Deerman (C), Wyatt Fooks (C), Weston Kirk (C).

Sunbelt Baseball League standings

x-Gainesville GolDiggers196.760
y-Waleska Wild Things1510.6004
Alpharetta Aviators619.24013
x-Atlanta Crackers1511.577
y-Atlanta Blues1314.4812.5
Brookhaven Bucks1215.4443.5
x-Columbus Chatt-a-Hoots1610.615
Gwinnett Astros1015.4005.5
Choccolocco Monsters1016.4856

x-Clinched division, y-clinched playoff spot

Saturday’s Games
Atlanta Blues 7, Choccolocco 4
Brookhaven 2, Atlanta Crackers 1
Columbus 10-9, Gwinnett 6-0
Waleska 4-7, Alpharetta 1-6

Monday’s Games
Waleska at Gainesville (2), 3:30 p.m.
Alpharetta at Atlanta Crackers, 6:05 p.m.
Brookhaven at Gwinnett, 6:05 p.m.
Choccolocco at Columbus, 6:05 p.m.

Tuesday’s Games
Atlanta Crackers at Alpharetta, 6:05 p.m.
Gainesville vs. Gwinnett, 7:05 p.m.
Waleska at Atlanta Blues, 6:05 p.m.
Columbus at Choccolocco, 7:05 p.m.

Playoff standings

x-Atlanta Crackers1511Central
y-Waleska1510No. 4
y-Atlanta Blues1314No. 5
x-clinched division, y-clinched playoff spot

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