EASTLAKE—North scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to defeat rival South in a rivalry thriller at Classic Park on Sunday night.
The Rangers jumped out to an early 4-0 lead but two big innings for the Rebels forced North to rally in the top of the seventh for the win.
“This was great to see,” said North coach Joe Iveljic. “We talk about the resiliency of these guys all the time and you can see it. We posted runs in five of the seven innings. They would come back and score some runs and I had no doubt in my mind that they wouldn’t come in and battle.”
Everything went North’s way early as the Rangers posted three runs in the top of the first inning.
Blane Schmidt hit a leadoff single and moved to third on a pair of passed balls. Ethan Zele then drew a walk and moved to second on a passed ball. Trent Bucy followed with a two-run single but later was caught stealing second.
Matt Barner singled and scored on Owen Hopper’s RBI double.
“We put some good at-bats together,” Iveljic said. “I think we had a 62-percent quality at-bat rate today, which is really good for us.”
South loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning but Logan Metz pitched out of that jam to keep the Rangers in front 3-0.
North tacked on a run in the top of the second when Brody Spock drew a one-out walk and Schmidt and Zele drew back-to-back walks to load the bases with just one out. Bucy picked up his third RBI of the game when he drew a bases-loaded walk.
South responded with two unearned runs in the bottom of the inning on just one hit.
Gabe Hanslik hit a one-out single and then A.J. Hanslik reached on an error. Niko Frizell then reached on a fielder’s choice when he hit a ground ball to third. The throw to the plate was late and then the Rangers threw the ball around the infield and allowed a second run to score.
North extended its lead to 6-2 with a two-run fourth.
Schmidt and Zele drew back-to-back walks and Schmidt stole third and scored on a balk. Barner then singled and Zele scored on a throwing error.
North committed three errors in the fourth inning and South capitalized with six runs to take an 8-6 lead.
“We were definitely sloppy defensively,” Iveljic said. “It seems we do that quite a bit with Logan on the mound. He throws too many pitches he doesn’t need to throw. We have to play clean behind him.”
After a fly-out to start the inning, A.J. Hanslik singled, Frizell reached on an error, and Gavin McCarthur hit an RBI single. Giovanni Holmecki was hit by a pitch to load the bases and Jeremiah Atwell hit a sacrifice fly to pull the Rebels to within 6-4. Aaron Gillespie reached on an error and Adam Salesky hit an RBI single to tie the game. Anthony Shields and Gabe Hanslik drew back-to-back walks and Gillespie scored on a passed ball to give the Rebels their first lead, 7-6.
Nick Licursi relieved Metz and struck out the first batter he faced but not before Salesky stole home to push the Rebel lead to 8-6.
Metz allowed eight unearned runs on five hits and struck out five in 3 2/3 innings.
North manufactured a pair of runs in the fifth to tie the score at 8-8.
Andrew Gunton drew a leadoff walk and Sean Register was hit by a pitch to start the inning. Kevin Gough, the hero of Saturday’s win over North Olmsted, moved the runners up a base with his sacrifice bunt and Brody Spock reached on an error that cut South’s lead to 8-7. Schmidt then reached on an error that tied the game.
The Rebels responded with a run in the bottom half of the inning when Frizell singled and McArthur was hit by a pitch that ended Licursi’s day on the hill.
Gunton relieved Licursi and walked the first batter he faced to load the bases. Atwell followed with a sacrifice fly and Gunton struck out the next batter and coaxed an inning-ending ground ball to end the South threat.
The Rangers loaded the bases in the sixth but couldn’t get the clutch hit to tie the game.
With two outs in the top of the seventh, Bucy hit a rope down the left field line for a double and then perfectly executed a delayed steal of third.
“There are a couple of guys on our team that we’ll let them take third on their own,” Iveljic said. “You know they’re going to get a pretty good read of the pitchers and they have a high base-running IQ. We allow them to do that because they know they can’t make the last out at third.”
Barner was hit by a pitch to put runners at the corners for Hopper, who singled home Bucy to tie the game. Gunton followed with an RBI single and then sat the Rebels down in order in the bottom of the seventh to seal North’s win.
Gunton threw three scoreless innings with three strikeouts to allow the Rangers time to get back into the game. He then delivered the game-winning hit in the seventh.
“We have a couple of sophomores that really contribute a lot on this team and Andrew is one of them,” Iveljic said. “He has impressed me along the way. He had a big hit in the first inning and he seems to come through with big hits. He’s like a double machine, and from the pitching perspective, we haven’t really had the chance to get him in much early because we weren’t playing as frequently but you’re kind of seeing what he has to offer on the mound.”
Gunton finished the game 3-for-4 with two runs scored, an RBI, and a walk. Bucy and Barner both added two hits in the win.