The version of the Westlake baseball team that played at North Ridgeville on April 14 was one that coach Larry Mosley thought could be dangerous as the season progresses.
A youthful mix of promise and inconsistency so far, the Demons had totaled two runs in their previous two games–both close losses to Padua and Avon. But against the Rangers, they capitalized on free passes and defensive miscues, then came up with big hits when they needed them and came away with an 8-3 victory.
“The boys have been inching towards a breakout game, and today was one of those days where they manufactured runs, dictated the tempo, and eight runs later, here we are,” Mosley said.
The Demons led 6-0 after the top of the third inning, then added extra insurance in the fourth and fifth. Three players recorded two-hit games, led by catcher Michael Stenger’s 3 RBI. Matthew Randar was 2-for-4 with a double and a triple.
After Rangers (6-5, 2-4 Southwestern Conference) starter Jake Boynar walked Zach Regas and Cal Reghi to start the afternoon, they both advanced on a passed ball. Stenger then put the Demons (3-5, 2-4 SWC) ahead for good with a RBI sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Regas from third.
With two outs in the third, Randar hit a RBI triple to center, then scored himself when he stole home, upping the lead to 3-0. Two Ranger errors in the third inning led directly to two runs, then Ivan Tucholski’s RBI single to right made it 6-0.
Each time opportunity knocked, the Demons answered.
“Everyone was doing pretty well at the plate,” Stenger said. “We were all seeing the ball well and finding holes in the field.”
Stenger padded the lead with a run-scoring triple to center field in the fourth inning and was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the next inning, bringing home the team’s final run.
“I was looking fastball early in the game, but towards the later innings they were going curveball first pitch and I just sat on that and drove it,” Stenger said of the approach to his multi-hit day.
Also helping the Demons’ cause was freshman right-hander Chris Protos, who pitched the first complete game of his high school career. Over seven innings, he surrendered three runs (one earned) on three hits, walked one and struck out five.
“Protos, if he continues to trend in the right direction, I think he can be one of the most dominant arms in this conference,” Mosley said. “We needed him to come in and be a losing streak killer, and that’s what he did today. He came in and shut the door.”
Boynar took the loss after pitching three innings and allowing six runs on five hits. Andrew Stano pitched the last four frames in relief, giving up two runs on four hits while striking out seven.
The Rangers scored in the third inning thanks to a RBI single by C.J. Ramage-Roig and a RBI ground out by Gavin Padgett. Dan Yonts tripled home the team’s third run with two down in the seventh.
Between the errors, the Demons’ big hits and Protos’ pitching, the Rangers were unable to get comfortable in what became their fourth loss in their last five games.
“We walked four of the first 10 batters when we were pitching, then we were throwing the ball around,” Rangers coach Matt Ponting said. “We didn’t execute and shot ourselves in the foot there. We’ve got a young team. There’s six sophomores that we’ve got playing, a couple juniors, a group of seniors who are great kids. They’re learning. The sophomores, they missed a whole high school season, so this is the first time they’re seeing things. Sometimes, I think the game gets a little fast for them.”
North Ridgeville will head to Midview on Thursday at 4:45 p.m., then go to Brunswick on Saturday for an 11 a.m. matchup. Westlake will close this week with three straight games, hosting Midview today (4:45 p.m.), North Olmsted on Thursday (4:45 p.m.) then traveling to Lakewood on Friday (7 p.m.).
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