Ryan Leibach calmly stepped up to the plate in the third inning of the 88's game against the Bandits in the Heinrich League on Wednesday at Holcom Park. Leibach's team, the 88's, already had 13 runs under their belt and were well on their way to securing their eventual 17-7 victory. Leibach's swing would add to the excitement of the game and the 88's win as he deftly smacked the ball and sent it over the fence then ran his way around all three bases and straight on to home plate.
The home run was Leibach's second of the season, an occurrence that he attributed to his coach's training before the game.
"This run was good," Leibach said. "This was my favorite part of the game. My coach helped warm me up."
88's head coach John Parker said the experience of home runs like Leibach's unites both the player and the rest of the team.
"When a teammate pops one over the fence like that, the team gets excited," Parker said. "It was good for him to get that hit. His face really lit up after hitting it, and that's what this game is all about."
Leibach's home run helped to fire up his team even more and they shot back with three more runs after his over-the-fence shot. Cody Jones and Jack Bush ran through home plate after the bats of their teammates helped them advance on the bases. Chris Parker came flying over home plate in a dust storm after Bush batted him past second base. Ryan Scott and Tanner Kilmer also scored three runs apiece to help secure the 88's 17 runs.
Parker attributed the 88's runs to hustling in the first few innings to gain the upper hand.
"We were trying to run the bases more aggressively," Parker said. "Our goal is to attack when the opportunity arises. I think they've done a good job improving on that."
The Bandits didn't want to pass up a good opportunity either and tried to hold their own against the 88's. The team got off on the right foot in the second inning with a run. They bagged another run in the fourth, and Bandits Dillon Bergstrom, Austin Bergstrom and Eric Watson laid out runs on the field.
The Bandits also held fast defensively by striking out Jones, Kilmer and Colter Vestal when they all tried to round first base in the fourth inning.
Time was called on the game after the Bandits batted in the fifth inning, before they had a chance to challenge the 88's 17 runs.
Parker said his goal for the 88's for the rest of the season is to have more games like this one.
"We want to continue to help the boys develop into all around better baseball players," Parker said. "Our goal is to help them develop into high school baseball players."
The players in the league are at or near the age of 14 and are priming themselves to move up in ranks to play high school baseball next year. Parker said the league helps the players to fine-tune their skills, before trying their hand at more fierce competition.
"They are at the age when the little things matter, since they will be trying out for high school baseball next year," Parker said.
The 88's not only hope to hone their skills for more competitive ball play, but also to continue their season with more home runs like Leibach's.