September 16, 2014

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Heat doesn’t faze pitcher Kevin Hughes as Ironmen win

Lorain County’s James DiBiasio goes after a pitch in the fifth inning against Richmond on Wednesday night. Below, Ironmen starting pitcher Kevin Hughes delivers to the plate against a RiverRats batter. Lake Erie won the Prospect League game, 2-1. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Lorain County’s James DiBiasio goes after a pitch in the fifth inning against Richmond on Wednesday night. Below, Ironmen starting pitcher Kevin Hughes delivers to the plate against a RiverRats batter. Lake Erie won the Prospect League game, 2-1. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

LORAIN — Lorain County Ironmen pitcher Kevin Hughes didn’t dare complain about the weather on a steamy Wednesday evening at The Pipe Yard.

After all, the college players that make up the Prospect League don’t earn money for the summer games they play, so why give any up?

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Lorain manager Joe Rhomberg said after his team’s 2-1 win over the Richmond RiverRats that when he coached independent baseball in San Angelo, Texas — where, as he said, Wednesday’s 100-degree heat index would have been a pleasant afternoon — he fined players $100 if they complained about the heat.

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“You can’t let it bother you, if you want to go out and win,” Rhomberg said. “You can’t let the weather affect you and lose the game because of it.”

Hughes mentioned the heat after the game, but didn’t complain. And on the mound he seemed unfazed, striking out nine in seven innings during a 2-1 win over Richmond — the team’s fourth straight. Hughes dropped his ERA to 2.67.

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“I fell in love with my slider early — I saw they couldn’t handle it and threw it a lot,” said Hughes, now 5-3. “Every game is important now — this was big.”

Hughes did it without the 10 runs and 17 hits the Ironmen produced Tuesday. Lorain County managed just six hits against Richmond’s Hobs Donovan in Wednesday’s game. In the fifth, the Ironmen’s Brad Hallberg drove a one-out single to right, and advanced to third on Andrew Kubuski’s one-hop double off the right-field fence. As James DiBiasio walked, Hallberg scored on a passed ball by Richmond catcher Kevin Franchetti.

Sam Alvis hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Kubuski for a 2-0 lead and adding to Alvis’ team-high total of 31 RBIs.

The RiverRats reached Hughes in the seventh, and loudly. Hughes had struck out seven to that point, but Austin Ingraham laced a 3-1 triple into the right-field corner. Montana Timmons followed with a first-pitch double to the same spot to score Ingraham.

Pitching coach Ryan Hartzell visited the mound, and Hughes rebounded to strike out Franchetti. T.J. Weir rolled a swinging bunt to first, allowing Timmons to advance to third, but Hughes struck out Josh Denny — his 55th of the season, one shy of the Prospect League lead.

“I challenged them with fastballs, but I was losing a little bit on it,” Hughes said. “I went back to my slider.”
Said Rhomberg: “Hughes likes his breaking balls, and today he had control of it. It’s hard as a hitter when they can throw two pitches for strikes. (Donovan) did it, too.”

In the eighth, Lorain’s Spencer Bryant retired Richmond’s first two batters but had to fight to strand runners on second and third. And in the ninth, left fielder Alvis, who batted in the bottom of the eighth, walked two batters and allowed a single to load the bases. But shortstop Zak Blair gathered a one-out grounder, stepped on second and threw to Nate Tomaszewski to end the game. The Ironmen used usual closer Cameron Palmer the night before, so Alvis, who typically pitches at Louisiana Tech, it was.

“He has a great arm, and we’re trying to get him ready to go back to college and pitch,” Rhomberg said. “He has the mentality to close. He’s going to be a little wild — he doesn’t pitch enough to be sharp all the time. But he has good enough stuff to get the outs.”

The Ironmen hit the road for three before returning for a doubleheader Monday at The Pipe Yard.

Contact Joel Hammond at 329-7135 or hammond_joel@yahoo.com.