ELYRIA — Last season, Elyria would have folded under the pressure of facing a team like the Mentor Cardinals. But in Year 2 of the Ed Piazza regime, the Pioneers are stepping up to the challenge and Tuesday afternoon they nearly pushed Mentor to the brink before falling 5-2 in a Northeast Ohio Conference River Division game.
The Pioneers (3-2, 0-1 NOC) entered the seventh inning with the game tied at 1 before a suicide squeeze bunt and a triple broke open the game and brought in three runs for the Cardinals. Despite the loss, Piazza was pleased with most of what he saw on the field.
“We wouldn’t have played like this last year,” Piazza said. “We were in this game and we went into the seventh inning with a chance to win. That wouldn’t have happened last year.
“There were some little things that hurt us. But we will learn from it and move on.”
Elyria fell behind 1-0 in the second before a sacrifice by K.J. Allgood in the fifth brought in Chris Emerson to tie the game. Emerson came back onto the mound in the sixth and kept the Cardinals (5-1, 1-0) at bay before Mentor struck in the seventh.
A single by No. 8 hitter Garret Graehling led off the seventh inning. Emerson hit Brandon Stewart, his third hit batter, to put runners on first and second with no outs. Albert Giebel grounded out to Emerson to advance the runners to second and third before Brandon Kasberg pulled off the suicide squeeze.
Graehling broke for home as Emerson started his wind up. Kasberg laid down the bunt, Graehling crossed home plate, Stewart advanced to third, Kasberg was safe at first and Mentor led 2-1.
Danny Trimble sent the next ball over Elyria center fielder Jacob Czismadia and to the fence to clear the bases and push the Cardinals’ lead to 4-1. Mentor added another run before Emerson finally closed out the top half of the inning.
“I knew we needed a run,” Mentor coach Len Taylor said of the suicide squeeze call. “That’s the only thought that went through my mind. Then Danny hit that shot to center field to bring in two more. That gave us a little cushion if we needed it.”
Elyria threatened, albeit briefly in the bottom half of the inning, as Emerson brought in Mike Parron with two outs. Emerson and Marques Inman were on second and third when Brandon Welsandt struck out to end the game.
“We can take a lot from this,” Piazza said. “We get to face them at their place (today) and I am looking forward to it. We’ll both be putting our No. 2 pitchers in and we’ll see what happens.
“We showed today that we can play with them.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.