Bears use long ball to surge past Laces, 11-4

Home runs have been long overdue for the Highline Bears. In fact, they had not hit one at Mel Olsen stadium all season until Saturday night against the Laces Baseball Club.

And they did it early with homers in the first and third innings to give the Bears an 11-4 victory.

After Kealen Martin worked the count for the Lacers third registered walk that inning—with two outs—it sent catcher Cody Simmons to the plate with the bases loaded. Simmons launched one deep over the center field fence for a grand slam in the bottom of the first—his first homerun of the season and the first homerun for the Bears on their home turf.

“He has been hot lately,” head coach Josh Evans said of Simmons. “He has been smashing the baseball. We have been facing guys throwing 90, facing guys who throw 75—it does not matter what it is or what kind of pitch it is or where it is located, he is smashing the baseball.”

Simmons made the Laces pitchers pay all night. Along with his grand-slam, he tallied a total of five hits and brought in six of the Bears eleven runs. He knocked in a run in the third and slugged a double off the top of the wall in right center for his sixth RBI.

He was a triple shy of the cycle.

“Hoping he would get a triple there in the end to complete the cycle,” Evans chuckled. “Outstanding performance tonight by him.”

Not very often does Cameron Jenkins get the opportunity to bat and play in the field—as he is primarily one of the starters for the Bears. But, that changed Saturday as he was placed into right field and batted ninth. Jenkins made the most of it and sent a three-run shot over the fence to push the Bears lead to eight in the third inning.

“I just felt really happy I even hit the ball,” Jenkins said. “That was probably the best part of it—that I hit it.”

A few injuries to some players in the outfield gave Jenkins the chance to get his first at-bats this season. And in his second appearance at the plate, he did what most of his other teammates have not done so far this season.

“It is fun to brag, but I only brag for about a second or two,” he said. “Then I am like, ‘whatever, one hit, let’s get right back to the game and cheer on these other guys.’”

Highline’s starter, Connor Bensen, was untouchable through the first three innings—retiring eight batters in a row. But, that changed in the top of the fourth that started with a blooped single over Ben Wadowski’s head at first. Things seemed to settle down after a 6-4-3 double play, but Bensen would get them loaded after a couple of walks and a throwing error by Colton Robinson. Wadowksi made a play at first, stretching off the base to get the errant throw and got the tag—but the infield umpire thought different.

“He definitely clipped him on the back of the foot—back of the thigh,” Evans stated. “He definitely touched him and it was an unfortunate call that did not go our way—and it should have though.”

Bensen showed frustration with the ump and the call at first appeared to bother him. He yielded a double down the left field line to score two and walked his next three batters for the Laces to cut the lead to four.

Evans decided to bring A.J. Palmer in for relief and as Bensen walked off the mound, he mumbled a few words to the ump and was tossed from the game immediately.

“He is not entirely mentally there to his peak,” Evans said. “Just needs to stay focused, I mean he performed early on and performed up to that point.”

The bullpen was prolific after Bensen’s departure—holding the Laces to just one hit the rest of the game. Palmer got out of the bases loaded-two out jam with a strikeout and in the fifth—struck out the side. A 1-2-3 sixth inning finished his night with 2 1/3 innings pitched, five strikeouts and the mere one hit.

Austin Fokemma and Cole Connolly also came in for relief and kept the Laces befuddled. Connolly struck out the side in the ninth to close the door.

“Palmer, Fokemma, Connonlly—rock solid,” Evans said. “Can’t ask for anything more than that. Absolutely dominating.”

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