Independence learned a lot from its extra-inning loss at Normandy on Friday.
The Blue Devils bounced back from that setback with a 5-3 eight-inning win at Lutheran West on Tuesday.
“The game against Normandy becomes so critical for our game today because we lost by a run in extra innings and today was another extra-inning game,” said Independence coach Jim Crooks. “That experience of going extra innings in a game is critical.”
Independence scored a run in the top of the ninth against Normandy but couldn’t close the door in the bottom half of the inning and gave up two runs to the Invaders.
That wasn’t the case against the Longhorns as Independence scored the go-ahead runs in the top of the eighth and slammed the door in the bottom half of the inning.
“Lutheran West is a well-coached team,” Crooks said. “I have always respected their program and their pitcher pitched a heck of a game. It was a great game. The conference is going to be a grinder this year and that’s what the first two and a half weeks have taught me. Every game is going to be a dogfight.”
Mike Andryszczyk drew a two-out walk in the top of the third and scored on an error to give Independence a 1-0 lead.
The Longhorns responded with one in the bottom half of the inning to tie the game at 1-1.
Independence then scored a run in both the fourth and fifth innings to take a 3-1 advantage.
Rory Corrigan and Luke Pascarella both singled in the fourth and Charlie McGreal hit a ground ball to score Corrigan. Casey McGhee drew a leadoff walk in the fifth and moved to third on a pair of errors. He stole home to give the Blue Devils a short-lived two-run cushion.
The Longhorns strung together four hits, including a double, in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game.
It remained that way until the eighth.
Connor Blum and Ashton Lerz hit back-to-back singles to start the rally and Pascarella hit a two-out single to finish it.
“It was very exciting to come through at a key moment for the team,” Pascarella said. “It was my fourth time seeing him at the plate, so I was looking for the first good pitch to hit. Being there for the team when they need it most is important when playing any sport and has given me confidence moving forward.”
Lerz pitched 6 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs on nine hits and struck out seven in a no-decision.
Blum struck out three of the five batters he faced in picking up the win.
“Lerz battled like a bulldog on the mound and that’s been his role from day one and he delivered today,” Crooks said. “Connor Blum closed the door.”
Pascarella led the Blue Devils with two hits while Blum, Lerz, and Corrigan each had one.
“Our upperclassmen horses delivered with timely hits,” Crooks said. “Two sophomores, Luke Pascarella and Charlie McGreal, had two key hits for us. Charlie McGreal came up with a huge safety squeeze bunt he executed, so we’ve got to credit those younger guys too.”
Jake Gross and Zack Keller both had two hits for the Longhorns.
Independence improved to 5-1 overall and 5-0 in the Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division while Lutheran West dropped to 3-3, 2-3.