F.O.P. 10-year-olds eliminated from state tourney

By By RYAN WALLACE / Special to Niles Daily Star
JACKSON -- Two big innings proved to be enough as Grand Rapids Western defeated the Niles F.O.P. Little League 10-year-old All-Stars, 12-5, in an elimination game of the state tournament Wednesday night.
Western scored five runs in the top of the second inning and used a seven-run sixth inning to send Niles home from its first state tournament appearance.
Western played some small ball and took advantages of Niles' errors in both innings to stave off elimination. In the top of the second inning, Western managed to load the bases thanks to a hit batsmen, an error and a bunt.
Alex Szymczak drew a bases-loaded walk, scoring Western's first run and E.J. Grochowalski broke the game open when he launched a drive to right field that squirted off Niles' right fielder David Gardner's glove allowing three runs to score.
But like Niles has done all tournament long -- they got back in the game.
Dustan Craig led off the bottom of the second inning with a solo home run over the left field wall. Rashad Harris followed with a double to deep center field and later scored on an error.
In the bottom of the third inning, Niles scored three more to knot the game at 5-5. Montrell Merritt started the inning with an infield single and was brought home by a single from Gardner. Gardner stole his way to third base and scored on a passed ball. Harris drew a walk and scored the tying run on a fielder's choice.
From the fourth inning on Niles managed just one more hit, while Western remained patient at the plate and came up with some clutch hits.
In the top of the sixth inning, Western drew six walks, scored on two errors and used a timely hit from Cooper Russ to pull away. Russ' two-run single made it 11-5.
Lucero said his kids had no reason to feel bad about the way they played this week, in fact he's already looking forward to another tournament run in a couple years.

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