By Pete Chiodo
May 7, 2013 7:00 a.m. LINESVILLE —
The Oil City baseball team simply has Conneaut’s number this year.
“And that’s the only number we’ve had so far this year,” said Oil City head coach Adam Best. His team is now 2-12 on the season, 2-5 in Region 6. And both of those wins were against Conneaut.
The Oilers beat the Eagles 3-2 back on April 22.
On Thursday, they made it a sweep, halting Conneaut’s four-game win streak with a 12-9 victory over the Eagles.
“For whatever reason,” said Best, “we seem to want to come to play against them.”
Conneaut needed this game, too. The loss drops the Eagles’ record to 7-8 overall and 3-5 in Region 6, and it did not help out the team’s playoff hopes at all.
“We knew we had to get this one,” said Conneaut coach Todd Greenawalt, “and it didn’t happen (Thursday). This was the one to get.”
Conneaut looked like it was going to pull off one of its patented comebacks. After falling behind 5-1 after three and a half innings, the Eagles struck back with five runs in the fourth.
Bryce Groh got the comeback started when he socked a two-out, two-run single down the first base line.
Then Joe Durovey came up and walloped one over the fence in left center, plating two more.
Jeremy Santarelli kept the rally going with a single down the third base line. And courtesy runner Brendan Shaw scored the run on an Oil City error, giving Conneaut a 6-5 lead.
Jon Onderko added to that edge in the fifth, spanking a solo homer to left.
The lead was short lived, however. Oil City then embarked on a seven-run sixth inning, which featured five total hits, three successful bunts and one Conneaut error.
Daniel Staub had a bunt single. Zack Amos and Hunter French both put down squeeze bunts that scored runs and only resulted in one out.
“I’m a big fan of small ball,” said Best. “Until (Thursday) we were averaging two or three runs a game. So, we’re going to manufacture them any way we can. ... I called a couple suicide squeezes that worked and some sacrifice bunts that (Conneaut) threw around. We stole a little bit. The kids came through.”
The Oilers’ light touch at the plate allowed them to retake the lead at 9-7 with only one out in the books.
But it wasn’t all small ball. With two runners on the bags and still only one out, the Oilers’ Cullen Flaherty launched a homer to right field, making it 12-7.
“I was joking with Cullen Flaherty because (Conneaut) was switching pitchers, I said, ‘Be ready because (the bunt sign) might come up again,’” said Best.
“He said, ‘You’re not going to do (four) in one inning.’ I said, ‘Why not?’
“Then I told him, ‘No, swing away.’ So, I’m taking credit for his home run.”
Conneaut tried to mount a comeback in their last two innings at the plate. Brandon Sherman ripped a two-run homer to left in the sixth. And Cole Baker knocked in a run with a two-out triple to center field in the seventh.
However, this time the comeback stalled out and Oil City escaped with the win.
“We put ourselves in that position all year,” said Greenawalt. “We just weren’t able to get back (Thursday). We gave it a shot. The bottom line is we gave away too many runs — shaky defense and in one inning not being able to field the bunt. They had some nice bunts. But we had to make plays and get outs. We give them extra outs like that, eventually they hit a three-run homer. That’s baseball.”
Relief pitcher Andrew Pikna earned the win during two and a third innings of relief work. He allowed two earned runs on five hits with one walk and three Ks.
Sherman took the loss for Conneaut, yielding 11 runs (seven earned) on 10 hits with four walks and four strikeouts during the first five and a third innings.
At the plate, Baker, Sherman, Durovey and Santarelli each had two base hits.
Sherman had a double and a home run, scored three times and had two RBIs. Baker hit a triple, scored once and had one RBI.
Jake Andrew also had a double, driving in Sherman in the first inning.