Ramstein balance prevails over Lakenheath; Kaiserslautern splits in league baseball matchups

by Robert Baldwin
contributing writer

Royals Chris Guzaldo barely eludes the outstretched tag of the Lakenheath third baseman. Ramstein swept the Lancers over the weekend. Photo by Traci Junkins

As the Ramstein youngsters keep maturing, the victories keep on coming, each more convincing than the last. On Friday, the Royals got strong pitching and perfect defense to remain undefeated by sweeping Lakenheath 14-2 and 13-3 on the Kaiserslautern field. Kaiserslautern split with the Lancers, winning the nightcap 12-8 after dropping the opener 12-5.

One of the oldest baseball bits of wisdom comes at the beginning of every game when the manager tells the starting pitcher to “just throw strikes”. But in an ironic twist, it was that advice that did in Lakenheath pitcher Chris McIntosh against Ramstein. In the first three innings, he was wild, walking several and hitting four batters and the Royals could not get good swings against him. But in the fourth inning, when McIntosh settled in and started throwing strikes, the Ramstein bats exploded for seven runs. Makani Stenger and Chris Guzaldo both got on base and were driven home by Kaden Romelski’s double. Other key hits in the inning were a double by Tieran Shoffner, and singles by Nathan Pate and Ethan Smith. Smith went the distance on the mound and gave up two runs on five hits, striking out nine, including three straight in the top of the second inning with the bases loaded.

In the second game, the Royals broke it open with a nine run third inning and won 13-3. Smith, Kelty Hood, Guzaldo, John Odom, and Stenger all had RBIs in the inning. Shoffner picked up the victory with two and two thirds scoreless innings, surrendering one hit.

The Royals are 8-0 now and are just starting to hit their stride with eleven of the players being freshmen or sophomores. They are like a bunch of feisty colts cavorting in the field. But even thoroughbreds need to be reined in from time to time. Senior catcher Nathan Kranz is the cowboy who makes sure the colts don’t jump the fence. It is his calming influence that keeps them grounded, whether it be when they are successful or when they are struggling.

“When we talk between innings on the bench, instead of chewing them out, I try to change the subject,” Kranz said. “Get their mind off of baseball, relax, crack a joke, get them loose because when they are loose they do better.”

He also lets them know that he knows their strengths and weaknesses and urges them to throw all their pitches in crucial situations, which in turn helps them get over lapses in self confidence.

“I put a lot of faith in all my pitchers,” he said. “I try to get an element of trust. They can trust me behind the plate. If they want to throw a curveball, I let them throw a curve and they know I will catch it or block it and it won’t get past me. It helps with their confidence and I think they then just try to dish it.”

Ramstein and Wiesbaden remain the only undefeated teams in the league. They meet on May 11 in Wiesbaden.

On Saturday, host Kaiserslautern was doomed by a nine run Lakenheath fourth inning leading to a 12-5 loss. The Raiders committed five errors in the inning and were outhit ten to four in the game.

In the nightcap, Ronin Sherman threw 96 pitches and the Raiders took advantage of five Lancer errors for the victory. Trevor Sullivan was 2-3 with 1 RBI and Sam Newberry was 1-3 with 2 RBI.

“We were happy to win game two, but we were hoping to win both,” said Coach Justin Bates. “Tyler Otto and Ronin Sherman pitched well while dealing with adversity (shaky fielding).  Sullivan had a good day, with an outstanding diving catch in right field and a couple of hits. We simply have a lot of work to do in order to play at the level which puts us in competition with the best teams in our league.”

Next weekend the Royals are at home with Wilseck while Kaiserslautern boards the bus to Vicenza.

Ramstein catcher Nathan Kranz takes charge behind the plate against Lakenheath. The senior is responsible for steadying the very young Royals pitching staff. Photo by Stephanie LeClair