VERMILION — After three hours and 10 innings, and with the sun starting to set, Thursday’s Clearview-Vermilion game came down to which team would make a mistake first.
With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the 10th, Clippers catcher Jack Bennett appeared to catch the Sailors’ Ryan Barnes straying too far off third on a failed sacrifice bunt attempt. However, Bennett’s throw skipped past third baseman Roger Engle and into left field, and Barnes beat the throw to the plate to give Vermilion a hard-fought 5-4 non-conference win at Vermilion High School.
The Sailors improved to 3-2, while Clearview dropped to 0-3.
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“We had a squeeze called and Garrett (Koutsopoulos) didn’t get the bunt down and Barnes got caught wandering a bit too far,” Vermilion coach Jeff Keck said.
“I don’t think he fully sold out on the squeeze and they were able to make a throw down. Fortunately, the throw was a bit off and Barnes was able to get home on the throwing mistake.
“That’s nothing that I did, believe me. We just happened to benefit from that. With one out, we had to try to do something to create the run. Sometimes you’ve got to put pressure on the defense and just try to make them create something for you.”
Barnes, pinch-hitting for No. 9 hitter Brad Wind, led off by drawing a walk off of Clearview reliever Jared Miller (0-1). After Miller walked Caleb Waller, Clearview coach Dennis Pihlblad turned to senior Ryan Vargo.
Vargo, who started against Amherst on Monday, walked Mitch Peterson to load the bases with nobody out. But, he coaxed a shallow fly out to left by Justin Albrethsen, keeping the bases juiced for Garret Koutsopoulos.
One pitch later, and the Sailors celebrated the walk-off win.
“When I came out to the mound, (Vargo) said he wanted the ball, and I commend him for that,” Pihlblad said. “He’s a senior. He’s a four-year letterman and he said, ‘I want the ball.’ He was ready to go.
“It was tough for Miller and Antonio (Bennett) because they both pitched really good. Miller threw well against Lorain last Saturday and he did a great job for four innings today. For a freshman making his first start, I thought Antonio pitched well. He struggled early, but once he settled down, he did a phenomenal job for us.”
The Sailors could only muster four hits off of Bennett and Miller through nine innings. However, they drew 12 walks, which led to all five runs.
“We kept battling all game,” Keck said. “This was the second night in a row that we had a long game. We lost a tough one (12-11) to a good Edison team last night, and that was a long game. But the kids bounced back today. They played with energy and kept battling and we wound up getting that run in the 10th and won it against a darn good Clearview team.”
Bennett opened the game with three consecutive walks, and Nick Dlugosz’s two-out, two-run single to center gave Vermilion a 2-0 lead. Bennett retired the next eight hitters, holding the Sailors to three hits and four runs (three earned) over six innings.
Vermilion led 4-3 through five innings, however, the Clippers, who had seven hits against Garrett Koutsopoulos in his 5⅔ innings, came up big with two outs and a runner on second in the top of the sixth. Melendez drilled a 1-0 pitch into right for an RBI single, and Austin Harris followed with a single to chase Koutsopoulos from the game.
Keck turned to Waller, a freshman, to get out of the jam. He not only struck out leadoff hitter Pagan to end the inning, but kept the Sailors in the game with 4⅓ scoreless innings of one-hit relief, striking out five and walking none.
Waller (2-0) got out of a two-on, one-out jam in the top of the 10th by striking out Freddy Ritenauer looking and coaxing a flyout to center by Harris.
“Waller came in and did a nice job after Garrett Koutsopoulos pitched a great game,” Keck said. “Those two have been steady for us. Waller didn’t give up a run in a high-pressure situation for four-plus innings, so my hat’s off to him.”
Pihlblad was proud of how his team stood toe-to-toe with Vermilion.
“We’ll get better,” he said. “We’re going to turn this thing around. We’re struggling a little bit with the fundamentals, but we’ll work on those (today) in practice.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.