LORAIN — It had all the makings of another crushing loss Saturday night at the Pipe Yard for the Lorain County Ironmen.
First half champion West Virginia (20-9) had just scored single runs in the ninth and 10th innings to take the lead, and had its closer — hard-throwing Hunter Brothers and his 1.98 ERA and 18 strikeouts in 13 innings — on the hill to finish things off and give the Miners their eighth straight win.
But the Ironmen (8-21) rewrote the script by scoring twice off Brothers to snap their own five-game losing streak with a 6-5 victory. The teams square off today at 1:05 with former Indian Len Barker, who pitched a perfect game in 1981, on hand to throw out the first pitch.
“We’ve had a rough couple weeks,” Lorain County manager Joe Rhomberg said. “It seemed like all the breaks were going against us. We finally got an infield single instead of the other way around.”
“We didn’t give up,” Southview grad Rey Carrion, Lorain County’s catcher, said. “We never hung our heads. We punched right back at them.”
An error by shortstop Matthew Chavarria, a late-inning replacement for West Virginia, on a routine groundball off the bat of Blake Bellman started things off in the bottom of the 10th. Scott White blooped a hit to short right field and Carrion, who had ripped a two-run homer earlier in the game, singled sharply to right to load the bases.
“We got the bases loaded and had those two key hits,” said Carrion, who hit his first home run of the year in the sixth inning to put the Ironmen in front. “It feels good to get this one. It’s been a struggle all year for me. I’ve been working with Mr. Charboneau (Ironmen hitting instructor and former Indian). When I went up to bat, I had confidence.”
Ryan Wonders followed with another bloop hit to left that just snuck inside the foul line to score Bellman and tie the game. With one out, Cody Koch ripped a single to center to score Carrion with the game-winner.
Michael Burke, who entered the game with a near double-digit ERA (9.82), deserved a better fate as Lorain County’s starting pitcher.
He kept the normally high-scoring Miners off balance with a nice mix of curveballs and fastballs.
He was around the plate all night — striking out six and walking only one. He limited the damage from 10 hits — four infield scratches — in his 8 1/3-inning performance. His defense turned three double plays behind him.
“He was incredible,” Carrion said of Burke. “He kept the game under control. When he established his curveball, he really locked in and settled down.”
But Tyler Wells reached in the top of the ninth with one out on an infield single to end Burke’s day.
Zack Speer came on for the save and induced John Sprik to hit what appeared to be a game-ending double-play ball to Bellman at third. However, Bellman bobbled the ball and had to throw to first to retire Sprik, moving Wells to second. Joseph Williams came in to run for Wells and scored on pinch-hitter Brad Strong’s triple to the right-center gap. Speers then fanned pinch-hitter Gray Stafford to end the inning.
Speers struck out the first two Miners in the tenth, but Alex DeLaRosa came up with his fourth hit of the night followed by a single from Bryant Noteboom before a throwing error allowed DeLaRosa to score to put West Virginia on top.
“I’m proud the kids didn’t give up,” said Rhomberg. “It would have been easy to throw in the towel. You blow a save in the ninth, then you get down in extra innings — it was awesome to see. I’m just glad to get a win finally.”
“Hopefully this will turn things around,” Carrion said, looking forward to the start of the second half Tuesday. “The momentum builds. Hopefully we can start rolling.”
Contact Tim Gebhardt at 329-7135 or email@example.com.