HAMBURG – The Carver Black Sox have just four players on their roster from last year’s team. That didn’t matter one bit.
Despite starting the season with seven-straight losses and coming into the Region 7C Tournament as the No. 7 seed, the Black Sox are headed back to the state tournament for the sixth time in the last seven years after a thrilling 4-3 win over the Mayer Blazers Friday night at Hawks Field.
“When you have a team that just keeps getting better, it’s a lot of fun,” Carver manager Brian Tichy said. “There was no way in hell I thought we would be going back to the state tournament in May. I was going to be happy just making it to the regions. These guys grew. They just got better.”
The Black Sox grabbed an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning thanks to a pair of errors by the Blazers. From that point on, runs seemed to evade Carver despite multiple chances. Through the first eight innings, the Black Sox had the leadoff runner on seven times yet were unable to cash in.
“We knew we had chances early so it was just taking it at-bat by at-bat,” Melz said. “We have a lot of young guys and I told them when you step up to the plate it doesn’t matter if you’re 0-for-2 or 2-for-2. You just got to go up there and take a new approach and battle in the box.”
Mayer tied the game at two with a two-run home run by Joe Burns setting up the dramatic finish. In the bottom of the eighth, the Blazers took their first lead of the game as Josh Anthony pushed across the go-ahead run with a sacrifice fly.
After the clutch hit evaded the Black Sox for nearly the entire game, Carver came through when they needed to most in the top of the ninth.
With two outs and the bases loaded down a run, Matt Muller came through with the biggest hit of the night scoring two runs for Carver to give them a 4-3 lead.
Mayer would have their chance to rally in the bottom of the ninth. Joe Burns nearly tied the game with a two-out double that was just short of the fence. After advancing to third on a wild pitch, the Blazers had the tying run just 90 feet away but Bailey Melz once again delivered with a strikeout sending the Black Sox to the state tournament.
“It’s the ninth inning Black Sox,” Melz said with a laugh. “It’s fun to play this game. It’s fun to be in this region and in this tournament. You just never know what might happen.”
This season might have had an entirely different look for Carver if it wasn’t for one meeting between Tichy and his four core players who returned from last season’s team. After some talks between the guys, Tichy and his squad decided to run things back spearheaded by Melz.
“In the offseason, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back,” Tichy We (Melz, Jay Bresnahan, Peter Benson, and Cullen McNeil) met at Maynard’s and Bailey came to me and said I’ve got some guys. Not only did he do that, but he got good guys. Not just good players, but good people. When you have a guy like Bailey who is just a good guy, it’s no surprise that he brought good people in. You ask what Bailey brings to us he brings integrity, composure, and sincerity. He’s just a good human being.”
Things got off to a tough start for the Black Sox losing its first seven games of the season but things slowly started to turn around and Carver got hot at the right time to not only make the Region 7C Tournament but also the state tournament.
“We have a lot of young dudes and they figured things out,” Melz said. “It’s a different style of baseball and things started to click. We started playing better defense and the bats came around too. If you get hot at the right time of the year you can make it. From starting where we were to now making it to state, it feels pretty good. We battled all year and stuck with it and now they’re rewarded for it.”
It’s a special feeling for Melz to get back to the state tournament with almost an entirely new team. With almost all of them getting their first taste of the state tournament, Melz is excited for the rest of the team to get this experience.
“It’s going to be so cool because they have no idea what it’s like,” he said. “It’s unlike any baseball they’ve played before. I’m really excited to see them walking into those beautiful parks and feel the atmosphere and what it’s like for a state tournament.”
The moment comes full circle for Melz. While he was a part of Carver’s state tournament runs in previous years, he was often the ninth or 10th guy on the team. This year he’s their leadoff hitter, their ace pitcher, and the driving force behind what has been an exciting season for him and his team.
“It’s been fun,” Melz said. “The cool part is I’ve coached a lot of these guys when they were younger. Now being able to play with them and have the season that we’ve had is something special. You never stop having fun. There will be one day when someone tells you can’t play anymore, but while you can, you just take every single moment in because there’s nothing quite like it.”
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter/X – @Kovar_HJSports