December 19, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
30°F
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Ironmen break out, beat Slippery Rock 17-5

LORAIN — Last week was rough for the Lorain County Ironmen.

They lost five of their last six games, including dropping a doubleheader to the Slippery Rock Sliders on Saturday, to fall below .500 and out of first place in the East Division of the Prospect League.

The Ironmen put the past behind them and started this week on a high note, cranking out 14 hits Sunday in a 17-5 win over the Sliders.

Included in the barrage were two home runs — a two-run shot by Derek Sprout and a grand slam by Zach Ratcliff. Ratliff’s came in the seventh inning as the Ironmen broke open the game with nine runs.

Lorain County improved to 6-6, Slippery Rock fell to 5-7.

“The middle of the order really came through,” Lorain County manager Joe Rhomberg said. “Especially (Scott) Splett, Ratcliff and Sprout.

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They are a big part of this offense and they are starting to hit the ball now. That really shows when you can put up nine runs in an inning.

“It’s real nice to see and hopefully they can keep it going.”

Splett, Ratcliff and Sprout combined to go 5-for-13 with two home runs, nine runs scored and six RBIs. The Ironmen led 8-5 entering the bottom of the seventh, and Brennan Laird (Olmsted Falls) led off with a single off Ryan Ahrens. Following a strikeout by Troy Summers, Tyler Cougenhour singled and Splett walked to load the bases.

Ratliff, who was down in the count 0-2, sent a shot over the top of The Pipe Yard scoreboard in left-center to clear the bases. Ahrens walked Sprout on four pitches and gave way to reliever Lance Barkley.

Barkley didn’t fare any better, as Nate Langhals drew a walk and Tyler Bires (Lorain) singled to load the bases. Billy Salem reached first on an error by shortstop Tom Crimi that brought in Sprout and Langhals to push the lead to 14-5. A two-run double by Summers and an RBI by Cogenhour ran the lead to 17-5.

In all, the Ironmen sent 14 men to the plate in the seventh inning, scoring nine runs on four hits to knock the wind out of the Sliders.

“We knew once we got to their bullpen, the pitching was pretty weak,” said Ratcliff, who has two grand slams. “The pitcher left it up in the zone and I knew I hit it pretty well.

“We really needed this one since the past few games have been pretty tough. Once we got the lead for good, we wanted to step on their necks and put them away.”

Lorain County trailed 3-0 following the top of the second inning as a pair of errors on one play led to three Slippery Rock runs. Slippery Rock led 4-2 in the bottom of the third, but Sprout tied the game with a two-run shot over the left-field fence.

Slippery Rock took a 5-4 lead in the fourth on a two-out bunt, but Lorain County grabbed the lead for good in the fifth on a four-error play by the Sliders.

With Splett and Sprout on base, Langhals hit the ball to first baseman Morgan McCassland, who was unable to cleanly field it as Splett scored.

McCassland’s throw to first was off the mark for the second error. Pitcher Travis Clark’s ensuing throw to third base to get Sprout was wide for the third error and allowed him to score. Langhals, who kept running after the second error, headed home as Connor McCallum’s throw to the plate hit the backstop for a 7-5 Lorain County lead.

Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or hanshans68@gmail.com.