Circle-Andale high school baseball splits in top 5 showdown

Lionel Tipton

TOWANDA – Fifth-ranked Andale was in a giving mood Monday, and fourth-ranked Circle was in the mood to receive in the first game of a doubleheader, rallying for an 11-7 victory helped by 12 Indians errors.

But in the second game, Circle gave back, and Andale earned a split with a 14-6 victory, helped by five Circle errors and a 13-hit attack.

The Thunderbirds spotted Andale four runs in the top of the first, then got three in their half.

In the first game, Circle (10-2) started digging out of a 4-3 hole early, getting three runs in the first after two were out. Junior Jake Hagemann, serving as leadoff man in the order as well as the T-Birds’ starting pitcher, reached on an error and ended up at third. Daniel Stovall’s fly to left was dropped, scoring Hageman and putting Stovall at second. Stovall then scored when Jake Shaults’ ground ball was misplayed for an error, and Shaults scored on freshman Landon Haines’ single.

Andale’s lead grew to 7-3 after a two-run third. But that would be all the Indians would get in this game. The Thunderbirds comeback restarted in the bottom of the third, when Stovall was hit by a pitch from Indians starter Seth Reichenberger. He advanced to second on an error and came home on Shaults’ double to left. Kreede Sheppard and Haines then singled to center. Blaine Bourne’s fielder’s choice forced Haines at second, but Sheppard moved to third. He then scored on sophomore Cooper Chadwell’s double to left.

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Just like that, Circle had cut the deficit to a run, and would tie the score in the fourth when junior Lane Willhite reaches on an error by the Andale right fielder and makes it all the way to third. One out later, he scored the tying run when Shaults’ grounder to short was booted.

With a fresh look on the scoreboard, Circle proceeded to shut down Andale (8-4) the rest of the way. Haines moved from first base to pitcher in the fifth and retired the Indians in order. In the sixth, despite a single and two walks, Haines kept Andale scoreless, stranding the tie-breaking run at third. 

Meanwhile, Circle struck for four runs in its half of the sixth on just two hits, helped by two Andale errors.

Levi Nice reached on an error with one out, followed by a Willhite single to center. Stovall then doubled in Nice, breaking the deadlock. Shaults grounded to short, yet another error put him on second. Sheppard then walked. A double steal resulted in an error that scored Shaults with the fourth run of the inning.

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Max Maholland entered for the top of the seventh and struck out the side, preserving the victory for Haines. 

In addition to being the winning pitcher, Haines was the only Thunderbird with more than one hit. Circle had seven in the game.

Afterward, Circle coach Matt Jordan said there is much to work on.

“We did not play well (Monday night) in either game,” he said. “We were lucky to win the first one. I thought our focus was not good coming into the first game.

“I thought that our defense was not good all night. I think totally we made 10 errors in two games. The only thing that saved us was we hit the ball really well the first game, and they made some errors for us as well.”

But there were some bright spots, Jordan said. 

“Max Maholland is probably the best pitcher in the state,” he said. “I think he has some major-league baseball potential in him.” 

Jordan also singled out Haines. 

“He came in as a freshman in the fifth and the sixth to shut it down,” Jordan said. “He held it right there and gave us a chance to win.

“He has been great since Day One. He’s been on varsity since Day One. He’s always focused; he’s always ready to go. The future’s really bright for him.”

Willhite and Stovall recorded hits in each game. 

“Lane’s been big for us all year,” Jordan said. “He might be one of the better offensive players in our league so far this year.

 “Stovall had a big hit with the game tied (in the opener). He’s our guy. He came up big for us. He’s hitting almost .600 this year; his ERA’s below 1.00. He should be a candidate for Player of the Year in our league, for sure.”

In the nightcap, the temperatures dropped and the wind increased to nearly 20 mph from the north-northeast, complicating matters.

Circle errors at untimely points doomed the Thunderbirds in this, and Andale left-hander Reed Adelhardt stifled them, allowing just a double to Willhite in the third and a triple to Stovall in the seventh.

Errors and the chilly conditions played huge role in both games. In the opener, only three of Circle’s 11 runs were earned; in the nightcap, only eight of Andale’s 14 were earned. 

Circle will have to regroup quickly, as they will play host to a powerful Buhler team that Monday swept Collegiate on the road by scores of 15-0 and 24-3.

Circle 11-6, Andale 7-14

Game One

Andale                    412 000 0 – 7

Circle                      303 104 x – 11 

W – Haines. L – Reichenberger. Sv – Maholland. HR – None.

Game Two

Andale                    004 027 1 – 14

Circle                      202 010 1– 6 

W – Adelhardt. L – Kenney. HR – None.