Independence executed a squeeze bunt to score the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning of a 5-4 win over visiting Garfield Heights on Friday.
“We had some late-inning drama and we came through against a really good pitcher. That kid pitched a really good game,” said Independence coach Jim Crooks. “He changed speed and threw hard. He threw strikes but the kids endured. There are times when we can play the long ball and times we can play the small game and this was another example of how we played small baseball to win a game against a really good pitcher.”
Garfield Heights strung together a single and a double in the top of the first to take a 1-0 lead but the Blue Devils responded in the bottom half of the inning.
Casey McGhee led off with a double and scored on Connor Blum’s sacrifice fly.
A leadoff home run gave Garfield Heights a 2-1 lead in the third and the Bulldogs added another run in the fourth on four straight walks. An unearned run in the sixth pushed Garfield Heights’ lead to 4-1.
Independence’s bats came alive in the bottom half of the inning.
Matt Richards led off with a single and McGhee drew a walk. Richards, who stole a base and took another on a passed ball, scored on an error and Charlie McGreal then singled to put runners at first and second with nobody out.
McGhee tagged up and scored on an Ashton Lerz sacrifice fly and McGreal scored on an Evan Beacher single to tie the game at 4-4.
The Blue Devils then set the stage for the dramatic finish with a leadoff single from freshman Cy Jolliffe. Luke Pascarella sacrificed Jolliffe to second and Richards and McGhee both reached on errors that left the bases loaded with one out.
McGreal then laid down a perfect squeeze bunt to score the winning run.
“We got the leadoff runner in the bottom of the seventh,” Crooks said. “We sacrifice bunted him over by an excellent bunt from Luke Pascarella and then we picked up a base and did a squeeze bunt with Charlie McGreal. It’s almost indefensible but you’ve got to give credit to a sophomore who has the fortitude to put a bunt down against a really good pitcher in the bottom of the last inning to win the game and he did it.”
McGreal lead the Blue Devils with two hits.
Aaron Ramm started the game for the Blue Devils. He allowed two runs on four hits and struck out three in two innings of work. Beacher allowed one run on one hit and struck out six in three innings of work and McGhee threw the sixth and seventh to pick up the win. He allowed one unearned run and struck out five.
“Casey pitched real well,” Crooks said. “Aaron Ramm started the game and set the tone. Evan Beacher threw well for us and then Casey McGhee came in and was a bulldog on the mound.”
With the win, Independence improved to 6-2 on the year.