ELYRIA — Match East against West in Elyria Little League tournament action at any level and you’re bound to have a drag-out battle from start to finish.
Thursday’s losers bracket Juniors game was no exception, as East outlasted West 9-7 to stay alive in the district tournament. East will play at either Cuyahoga Falls South or Elyria North on Saturday in the losers bracket final at 6 p.m. Falls and North meet tonight at North in the winners bracket final.
“We scored six in the first two innings,” said East manager Jeff Sexton. “But (West’s) pitcher came back. He settled in and threw three nice innings, but we never panicked. We kept plugging away.”
At the outset it appeared East would make quick work of the game. It scored a run in the first off hard-hit singles by Zach Shaffstall and Jack Klingshirn. Shaffstall scored on Seth Harrah’s groundout.
East added five in the second as it batted around. A walk, an error and a fielder’s choice loaded the bases. A balk scored the first run and Jager Shaffstall drew a walk to reload the bases. Zach Shaffstall’s sacrifice fly scored the second run and Klingshirn chased home two more with a double. Harrah drove home Klingshirn with another hit, but that was the extent of the damage as West right-hander Cody Hall pitched well from that point.
A walk and an infield single by Tevin Donaldson led to one run for West in the fourth. However, West saw a couple of chances go up in smoke in the bottom of the fifth. A possible sacrifice fly wasn’t converted, and a baserunning blunder cost a sure run later in the inning. Donaldson’s sharp single to left should’ve been worth two runs.
“We came back in the bottom of the fifth inning,” said West manager Steve Thompson. “Then we missed third base and (East) got the appeal play for an out — that cost us a run, plus it gave them an out. We did make a comeback at the end but it was too little, too late.”
East scored twice in the top of the seventh to pull in front 9-2. West scored four in its half of the inning to put a little heat on.
“We were down pitching-wise,” Thompson said. “We went after the Falls South game (Wednesday) and probably used a little more pitching than we should have.”
It was the second time the city rivals met in the tournament. West won the opening round 3-2, but East may have gotten the more important one.
“It was pretty sweet,” said winning pitcher Matt Randolph, who went the first 3 2/3 innings and then came back to get the final out of the game on a strikeout. “We had two double plays. It was crazy.”
Randolph helped his cause with an RBI hit in the seventh inning.
“We shouldn’t have lost the first time,” said Randolph. “I guess we wanted this one more than they did.”
“West never quits,” said Sexton. “We know that. Whenever you play those guys, they never quit. Monday night, we got a little antsy and lost it. (Thursday) we never panicked.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.