By Pete Chiodo
April 18, 2013 7:00 a.m. LINESVILLE —
The Conneaut baseball club is turning into one of the teams that you can never really count out.
A couple weeks ago in a game against Cochranton, the Eagles scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to pull out a 5-4 win over the Cardinals.
Then on Wednesday, the Eagles trailed Region 6 rival Meadville 7-1 going into the bottom of the fourth, only to rally in the latter half of the game and grab an exciting 8-7 victory over the Bulldogs.
“Crazy comeback win,” said Conneaut’s Brandon Sherman. “We started out real slow, making a bunch of mental mistakes. And then we came together and came back. It’s a great feeling.”
It was Conneaut’s first ever win in a Region 6 contest. The Eagles are now 1-1 in the league and 3-4 overall.
“Yeah, I’m glad the comeback was nice because the first part of the game wasn’t at all,” said Conneaut head coach Todd Greenawalt. “We can’t come out like that. I’ll take the blame for that. But I’m proud of them for still playing pitch-to-pitch and not giving up. With all the mistakes we made, it’s easy for anyone to put their head down and give up. And we didn’t.”
Meadville drops to 1-4 overall and 1-1 in Region 6.
“There was some good stuff (Wednesday),” said Meadville head coach Bruce Stewart. “We’re going to have some good and bad times. And this is something to learn from. We’ve just got to learn to finish. And that’s usually an issue with young teams. But there is still a lot we can build on.”
In the early part of the game the Eagles were flailing against Meadville’s freshman pitcher Trevor Smith. Through the first three innings, Smith struck out eight batters and gave up just three hits.
“We were struggling with him,” said Sherman. “That curve ball just kept hitting that outside black. Couldn’t touch it.”
Meanwhile, Meadville’s offense amassed a 6-0 lead. Kye Hopkins had an RBI double in the Bulldogs’ two-run first inning. Then the ’Dogs tallied four in the third, getting a RBI double from Smith and a two-run double from Corey Stainbrook.
In the bottom of the third, though, Sherman breathed some life into the Eagles’ offense. The senior got visibly irked at a high strike call and took it out on Smith’s next offering, sending it high over the fence in left field for a home run.
“He put it right down the pipe,” said Sherman. “I thought it was just going to be a routine pop out. But our fence is so short, which I like. It’ll just go right out.”
Meadville got that run back in the top of the fourth on a double by Smith and a sacrifice fly by Hopkins, which made it a 7-1 game.
However, the Eagles bats had come to life. In the fourth, Cole Baker slugged a two-out double down the third base line. Tanner Houck drew a walk to keep the inning going. And then Sherman roped a triple to the fence in right field to bring Baker and Houck home, making it a 7-3 game.
“After (Sherman’s home run) everyone started swinging the bats better,” said Greenawalt.
Conneaut then tied it up in the sixth inning, hanging a four spot on reliever Dom Pruskowski.
The Eagles loaded the bases on a walk, a single by Jeremy Santarelli and another walk.
Houck squeezed in a run on a sacrifice bunt, making it 7-4. Then Sherman walked to load the bases again.
Joe Durovey flew out to right for out number two. On the play, right fielder Zach Grill tried to nab Sherman, who had wandered off from first base. Sherman slid into the bag and collided with first baseman Kyle Lynch, who made the catch but went down. That gave base runner Brendan Shaw enough time to score from third, making it 7-5.
Luke Graham then ripped a single into left field, driving in another run. And the ball skipped away from the outfielder, allowing Sherman to come around, tying the game at 7-7.
“We were about one pitch from getting out of that inning three times,” said Stewart. “We just couldn’t get it and make the play and get it over with.”
Conneaut now had all the momentum going into the seventh. Chase Gallo drew a lead-off walk in from reliever Ted Williams. Jordan King put two in scoring position with a double to left. Then Santarelli knocked a sac fly into center field, sending Gallo home for the game-winner.
Sherman got the win on the mound, yielding one hit and one walk over two scoreless innings of relief.
Cole Baker had a nice start for Conneaut, but didn’t get much help from his defense. The Eagles committed four errors in the first four innings. Baker’s line included seven unearned runs on seven hits through five frames.
“Cole, I thought, pitched an outstanding game,” said Greenawalt. “It doesn’t show. But for him to keep his head and to keep us in it is big. And then Sherman, to keep it where it was at and give us a chance, that was key.”