By Pete Chiodo
The 2013 home opener for the Meadville baseball team might not go down in the books as a victory. What it did do, however, was show that this young group of Bulldogs is right on the verge.
Monday at Eldred Glen, the Bulldogs went toe-to-toe with a senior-laden Titusville crew and its top arm, lefty Adam Bleday, and came up just one run short as the Rockets won it 2-1.
“We were right there,” said Meadville’s first-year head coach Bruce Stewart. “It only takes one play, especially against a pitcher like (Bleday). He’s probably one of the best pitchers in the county. So to stay right there and have a chance to beat him, I thought it was a big step for us. Because all winter long everybody has wondering if we were going to be any good or not be any good. So I think we proved we’re all right.”
The Bulldogs fell to 0-3 with the loss. Titusville improved to 2-0.
“We did what we had to do there at the end of the game,” said Titusville head coach Mike Hlad. “Adam pitched a nice game. It was a complete game, 117 pitches. We put the ball in play. We could have done a couple things differently. We were kind of flat.
“But it was a good game. I’m happy with it.”
Bleday indeed pitched tough. The senior gave up five hits — three of which were recorded by Meadville’s lead-off hitter Ted Williams — walked two and notched 10 punch-outs.
“We preach patience, being aggressive in the zone, but still being patient,” said Stewart. “We were hoping to get (Bleday’s) pitch count up, maybe get him out of there and get to the bullpen. But he did a pretty good job of mixing it up.”
Meadville scored its only run of the game in the fifth inning. Pinch-hitter Chuck McQuone drew a walk with one out. Then with two outs, Williams and Brock Biggs hit back-to-back singles. Biggs’ knock over the head of Titusville’s first baseman brought in the run.
Kye Hopkins had Meadville’s only other hit, a single in the sixth.
Titusville’s offense didn’t fare any better against Meadville’s pitching staff.
Starter Thomas Mc-Closkey yielded just three hits over the first five innings while walking two and striking out three.
“McCloskey, just like I thought, he’s going to be good for us all year,” said Stewart. “He pitched a heck of a game. He got up around that 70-pitch mark and it’s too early to push him past that.”
Titusville got on the board in the third inning against McCloskey when Zach Horn led off with a walk and Zach Foltz knocked him in one out later with a looper to shallow right.
Corey Stainbrook was later solid in relief of McCloskey. He allowed just one more hit during the final two innings, walked two and struck out one.
The game-winning run for Titusville, scored in the top of the seventh, was unearned after MASH’s defense helped it home with three infield errors.
That series of bungles followed six clean innings for the ’Dogs’ defense. Two of those errors came with two outs.
“One play here or there changes the game,” said Stewart. “We’re not far away. We’re going to be all right.”
Meadville went 1-2-3 in the seventh, allowing Titusville to escape with the victory.