by Robert Baldwin
Winning is hard.
The Arizona Cardinals can attest to that. So can Wile E. Coyote. Or ask any team that plays a Ramstein boys squad that involves teamwork, a ball and the legal use of hands. After Friday’s sweep of Vilseck, 7-6 and 16-0, the undefeated Euro champs in football and basketball and are now 10-0 in baseball this spring.
The streak has been anything but mundane. The opener against Vilseck confirmed that the Royals have a definite flair for the dramatic.
“These boys carry themselves in a more mature manner than many other young teams,” Coach Osvaldo Garcia Carillo said. “They know what is at stake, which is to reach the European tournament as the number one seed! They know that they are really good, but they want to be better than good. The key is that these guys know me and how I react to adversity by staying cool, calm and collected, regardless of the situation. They know they have my trust 100 percent. The team is committed to our plan, and they won’t stop until we bring that championship back to Ramstein.” The Euro tournament is dated May 23 to 25 in the KMC.
Vilseck was supposed to be the next victim, but they were not buying it. With a crafty lefthanded pitcher and timely hitting, they entered the fourth inning at the Southside Gym field tied at four. They went down meekly in their half of the inning and, true to the script, Ramstein took advantage in the bottom of the inning and scored two more on a single to right center by freshman C.J. Delp and a double by Chris Gazaldo. With two outs, Miles Murphy cracked a fastball that took about a ten foot hop over the bag at second on the marginal Ramstein infield surface knocking in both base runners.
The Falcons got two back in the fifth on a double ripped to right field following an error and a walk, then, after a strike out, put runners at first and second with two outs when the number nine hitter walked and the leadoff hitter legged out an infield single. But pitcher Tieran Shoffner squashed the rally when he fielded a squibber down the third base line barehanded and threw in one motion to nip the runner for the final out, game still tied.
“We had a plan to try the arms from the bullpen on this particular game,” Garcia Carillo said. “The pitches were not falling in desired locations. So, our pitching staff, for game one, missed a couple of pitches high, and the Falcons made us pay the price by hitting the ball in the gaps.”
In the fifth, catcher Nathan Kranz opened with a walk and advanced to third on a Nate Smith double down the line in left. With runners on second, third and first base open, Vilseck chose to pitch to Kaden Romelski, who was hitless in the contest. But he never got the chance to be a hero when a Falcons breaking ball squirted away from the catcher. Kranz slid in with the winning run, 7-6.
In the second game, the Royals picked up eight runs in the opening inning and never looked back, winning 16-0. The big blow was an opposite field home run by Guzaldo, who circled the bases with a grin on his face. Shoffner doubled off the fence in right and Makani Stanger also homered in the ballgame, which was halted after three innings. The Royals had seven hits and eight walks. Murphy and Jeremy Leclair combined on the mound, holding Vilseck hitless.
Garcia Carillo said everything leads towards the European tournament later this month. He has the luxury of having a very talented young group and some juniors and seniors who show what it takes to win.
“The upperclassmen have been an essential part of our success, especially in moments where the team is coming from adverse situations. We have a way to communicate effectively among the players and coaches. I always listen to their likes, wants and needs, and try to guide them through by acknowledging their concerns or ideas. The seniors have direct input and suggestions on our weekly plan and game plans because they are the ones on the field working together to win games,” he said.
Tomorrow, Ramstein travels to second place Wiesbaden for a doubleheader that will play big in the seeding for the Euro tournament in the KMC May 23 to 25.
On the girls’ side, one can close the eyes and tell which team is batting. The dugout of the team at the plate sounds like the chorus from a Wagnerian opera with call and reply and a cacophony of sound. In the second game, Ramstein cruised to a 17-7 victory. But in Ramstein’s razor thin 14-13 victory over Vilseck in the opener, those sounds got progressively louder, especially in the heartstopping last inning.
It looked like a Ramstein blowout at the outset. The Royals scored six in the first and batted around, the big hit a triple by shortstop Paige Nielsen. But Vilseck’s core of experienced players chipped away with strong hitting and took advantage of the opportunities it was afforded and after the sixth, the contest got very exciting very quickly.
The Royals took a 14-9 lead into the final inning. The Falcons led off with an infield single and added another base runner when Ramstein second baseman Syd Smith fielded a ground ball and tried to get the force out at second. But the throw was low, handcuffed the shortstop, and both runners were safe. They both advanced on a passed ball and were plated by a double off the left center field wall by leadoff hitter Cecelia Jackson. Following the first out, a liner to third base, Vilseck got to within two when a single brought the run around.
The Royals got the second out on a line drive caught by Smith. The runner at first advanced on a wild pitch, putting the run in scoring position. Freshman pitcher Lauryn Szczygiel got the batter to hit the ball back to her, but her throw was wide at first and the runner came home.
Vilseck trailed by one with the tying run at bat, dangerous Rebekah Heckert. Szcyzgiel challenged her with the fastball and Heckert hit it hard. But Szczygiel stopped the one bouncer and ran it half way to first before tossing underhand for the final out and preserving the 14-13 victory.
“You continue to play the way that you practice and as long as you play for the outs and you work on your fundamentals and you continue to work through the fundamentals, the game will take care of itself,” coach Thomas Wright said between games.
Wright is not normally one to focus on just one individual, but he admitted that recent transplant catcher Mykel Taylor is something special, both defensively and with the bat. Taylor is like a coach on the field. She is the glue that holds it all together. She blocks balls in the dirt artistically. She dares the other team’s runners to take the extra base on her howitzer of an arm and she is vocal in her approach to her teammates. Most importantly, she steps up and takes charge. Her assertive demeanor is ideal for the young Royals team.
“She came to us as kind of a surprise, a very good surprise,” Wright said with a laugh. “We are thankful she is here. She has worked into the team and meshed with the other girls really well and I think she and the other girls are coming together and starting to play together well.”
In the fifth, Taylor picked out a fastball on the inside part of the plate and hit a bomb over the fence in left. The following inning she straightened out an outside pitch and hit a rocket off the fence in right center. She also doubled in the six run first inning. She is a threat to hit the ball hard every time she is at the plate. Defensively, she kept everything in front of her and knew how and when to talk to her young pitcher.
In the sixth, when the game was still in the balance, the Vilseck coach called time and said Szczygiel was doing something illegal with her arms as she pitched. A lengthy time out and discussion ensued between the umpires and coaches. Szczygiel’s face showed she was confused about the call since she had done nothing differently that inning than she had the entire game. Taylor trotted out to the mound, called the infield over, demonstrated to her pitcher what the argument was about, calmed everybody and made sure they were on the same page.
“We think that Mykel is an all around athlete. She plays well. She has played ball for a long time. She played in the States (Virginia) on a traveling team,” Wright said between games of the doubleheader.
Nielsen had three doubles and scored three runs. Left fielder Jayda Roberts had two doubles and a first inning RBI triple.
They are at Wiesbaden on Saturday.