JOPLIN, Mo. -- If you need a couple of guys to set your table for a Labor Day picnic this year, don't hesitate to call Todd Ritchie and Collin Radack. Better yet, wait for Thanksgiving. They'll pile the turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pumpkin pie to the ceiling.
Ritchie and Radack did their work as table-setters superbly on Sunday, leading the Austin Wings-Black team to the title of the Premier Baseball Junior Championship at Joe Becker Stadium. And "superbly" doesn't begin to tell the story for these two leadoff hitters.
In the semifinals against the Midwest Nationals, Ritchie and Radack batted three times apiece in the first three innings and were a combined 6-for-6 with five runs scored and four RBIs. That's for just three innings, folks, not the entire game. Not surprisingly, the Wings cruised 15-4 in five innings.
The experts in the press box agreed we'd never see anything like that again, and then we did.
In the finals against the Bayside Yankees, Ritchie and Radack batted three times apiece in the first two innings and went 5-for-5 with four runs scored, three singles, two RBIs, a double and a triple. In just two innings! Radack hit a sacrifice fly on his third at-bat, or else they might have gone 6-for-6 again. Not surprisingly, the Wings crushed the Yankees for the title, 16-5, in another game that was shortened to five innings by the Mercy Rule.
"Absolutely incredible," said Wings Coach Marcus Hendry.
Ritchie, a 5-foot-7 dynamo from Georgetown, Texas, went 6-for-9 in the two ballgames, pitched a complete game in the semifinals and played an excellent game in center field in the finals. Radack, from Austin, Texas, finished 5-for-6 for the day. They combined to go 11 for 15, score nine runs and drive in six. (A courtesy runner scored some of Ritchie's runs when he was the pitcher).
"Me and Collin, we just feel comfortable at 1 and 2," said Ritchie. "We call call it the 1-2 punch."
The Austin Wings scored eight runs in the third inning against the Midwest Nationals in the semifinals, then scored 11 runs in the second inning against the Bayside Yankees in the finals. All told, the Wings went 31-for-58 at the plate in the two ballgames for a lusty batting average of .535.
"That's how we always play," said Ritchie. "I mean, we swing the bat well. That's what we do."
You'll have to forgive Ritchie for exaggerating a tad. They don't "always" swing the bat that well. Nobody does, but they did Sunday.
"It seems like once we got into that championship round, we just started hitting like crazy," said Radack.
It began with an 11-6 victory over the Indiana Bulls Black in the quarterfinals on Saturday night. The Wings chased Indiana star Justin O'Conner in the third inning, although O'Conner hurt himself with five walks in 2 2/3 innings and the Bulls played leaky defense. Nonetheless, that victory set the stage for Sunday.
"The Indiana Bulls threw some really good pitching against us -- you know, some of the best pitchers we've faced all summer -- and we were able to get some runs across," said Radack, smiling.
Ritchie was all smiles, too, on Sunday. "It was a really great day," he said.
The Wings had an unusual experience in Pool Play on Friday and Saturday with two ties, but got into the eight-team playoffs as a Wild Card. Once given the opportunity, they took the ball and ran with it. Or rather, they took the ball and hit the stuffing out of it.
They had 17 hits in five innings as the visiting team against the Midwest Nationals, including a grand-slam and two-run single by Andre Wheeler (Austin, 2010) for six RBIs in two consecutive innings. They collected 14 more hits in four innings as the home team against the Yankees. Ty Marlow (Giddings, 2010) had four RBIs in the finals, with Zach Taylor (Georgetown, 2010) and Rush Plumlee (Giddings, 2010) collecting three RBIs apiece.
Hendry, 36, watched the parade from the third-base box. He sang the National Anthem a couple of times before games when he played at the University of Texas in the 1990s, and he probably felt like singing again on the trip back home.
"It's the first time all year that we clicked on all cylinders," he said. "And offensively, it was fun to watch."