For four innings Monday at All Pro Freight Stadium, Avon’s Josh Pierce and North Ridgeville’s Steven Zeller were engaged in a pitcher’s duel, matching each other zero for zero.
Then, in the bottom of the fifth, the
bottom dropped out on Zeller’s good performance.
A throwing error by Zeller on an attempted sacrifice bunt by Quinn Rambo two batters into the fifth led to a big two-run triple by sophomore Josh Yeagley, keying a four-run inning that led to a 4-1 West Shore Conference victory for Avon.
It was the WSC opener for both teams, and Ridgeville’s first game at The Freight this season. Ridgeville fell to 0-7 (0-1 WSC), while Avon improved to 4-5 (1-0 WSC) following an 0-3 performance at a spring break trip to Charleston, W. Va.
“This rivalry’s always been heated,” Yeagley said. “It’s good to come out and get a good game at home against them.”
Greg Harrison led off the inning with single to right field, and took second on Rambo’s attempted sac bunt. He advanced to third on a passed ball, putting runners at the corners for Yeagley.
Yeagley, who tried to lay down a sacrifice bunt on two consecutive pitches, hit away and lined a shot down the right-field line that rolled all the way to the wall. Harrison and Rambo scored, and Yeagley didn’t stop until he reached third.
Yeagley scored on Jake Disch’s fielder’s choice grounder to second to make it a 3-0 Avon lead with one out.
“I was just looking to put the ball in play after screwing up two straight bunt signs,” Yeagley said. “I was just trying to move the runners. At first, I thought it came off a little soft, but it carried pretty far and it turned out well.”
Zeller got a strikeout, but he hit Pierce with a pitch. Pierce stole second and scored on a single up the middle by Ryan “Jolly” Rogers, making it a 4-0 lead.
Harrison, the 10th batter of the inning, ended the inning he began by flying out to center, but the damage was done. Harrison wound up with two hits to pace the team’s six-hit attack.
“Their guy was doing a nice job of keeping our guys off balance,” Avon coach Frank DeSmit said. “Like I told the guys, when you see big guys stepping up to the plate batter after batter, it’s your job to keep them off balance, and (Zeller) did a nice job of that.
“We were getting some decent hits early on in the early going. Fortunately, we stuck in there and got something going.”
DeSmit admitted it was his strategy to try to play small in the fifth.
“We were going to try to manufacture some runs, with the way things were going,” he said. “We did nice job of scoring when we had the opportunity, and they did a nice job too of pitching a pretty good game.
“It worked out that one bunt led to Rambo being safe at first, and then Yeagley missed on two bunt attempts and he was able to get the big hit.”
The Rangers, who were held to two hits by Pierce (1-1), finally broke through in the top of the seventh inning.
Senior Josh Kirchner drew a leadoff walk off of Pierce and stole second. One out later, junior Justin Hobart lined a single into left-center, which scored Kirchner.
Hobart, who had both of Ridgeville’s hits off of Pierce, tried to stretch the single to a double, but was thrown out. Jerry Conaway popped up to shortstop to end the game.
Pierce, who is heading to Kent State next season, struck out eight and walked none in seven innings of work¸ allowing two hits and one run (both earned).
“The results were there and everything, but I wasn’t too pleased with my stuff,” he said. “My slider wasn’t there, and my location wasn’t as crisp as I wanted it to be. It was a little tough getting used to the colder weather after pitching in the mid-80s last week.
“But, I went out and got the job done and kept our team in it until they were able to break it open in the fifth.”
Zeller (0-2) allowed six hits and four runs (three earned) in six innings, walking one and striking out two.
This was Avon’s sixth game at The Freight this season. The players admitted that they more they play there, the more used to it they are becoming.
“The field of play is definitely different, being all turf,” Pierce said. “It’s kind of slow turf, and we’re starting to get used to it now, used to the bounces. We’re finally getting acclimated to it.”