October 21, 2014

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H.S. Baseball: Avon Lake jumps on Westlake early

Avon Lake catcher Brad Hamilton tags out Westlake's Kent Axcell at home plate. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

Avon Lake catcher Brad Hamilton tags out Westlake’s Kent Axcell at home plate. KRISTIN BAUER | CHRONICLE

AVON LAKE — The Shoremen didn’t waste any time getting their offense rolling Tuesday against Westlake.

Avon Lake’s leadoff hitter Jace Russell drove Andris Balodis’ first pitch of the game to the wall in right-center for a triple and he scored two pitches later on an RBI double by Jerry Campo.

That set the tone for a big 6-2 win for the Shoremen, their first in Southwestern Conference play this season. Avon Lake improves to 2-1, 1-1 in the league, while Westlake falls to 2-1, 1-1.

“We came out swinging and hit some balls right on the nose,” Avon Lake coach Kevin Marlow said. “It’s always big to get that first (league win), not quite getting the monkey off your back per se, but to get some momentum going in the conference season. Hopefully, we can string a few together, especially since our week is full of conference games.”

The top four batters in the order accounted for six of the Shoremen’s nine hits, with Campo going 3-for-4 with an RBI and two runs.

“The top of the order really got us rolling today offensively, but also came up big for us defensively,” Marlow said.

Russell said the Shoremen’s fast start was just part of the plan.

“We knew coming in that Westlake is a really good team, so we wanted to set the tone,” he said. “We wanted to get a good lead on them quickly and make them fight back and try to come back on us.”

David Winkel followed Campo’s double with a single to put runners on the corners, and a balk by Balodis gave Avon Lake a 2-0 lead. But after that, Balodis (0-1) settled down, retiring 11 consecutive hitters until there were two outs in the fourth.

“That first inning, I thought nerves got to us,” Westlake coach Brendan Zepp said. “It’s our second conference game, but we knew Avon Lake had a good season last year and we knew how potent they were offensively. They just came out with three solid rips, and I think we were a bit shell-shocked.

“Eventually, we settled in, but they’re a good team, a veteran team. Some plays didn’t go our way, but they got some big hits — four RBIs on two-out hits. Every time we didn’t make a play, the next kid comes up and rips one into left field for a double. It was just one of those games.”

In the fourth, Matt Pechaitis started things off with a walk and Garrett Kardish followed with a bloop double down the right-field line that two Demons could not quite run down. No. 8 hitter Matt Gottshall followed with a double to left-center that scored both runners, making it a 4-0 lead.

Campo led off the fifth with his third consecutive hit, and he advanced to second on a single by cleanup hitter Brad Hamilton. With two outs, Pechaitis drilled a 1-1 pitch to left for an RBI single. Westlake left fielder Nick Nebraska bobbled the ball for an error, allowing Hamilton to score to make it a 6-0 lead.

Logan DeLong (1-1), meanwhile, held Westlake scoreless for five innings, even striking out the side in the top of the third. He had only scattered two hits in those five innings before the wheels came off in the sixth.

Consecutive singles by Mike Fikter, Nebraska and Kent Axcell loaded the bases for Justin Runevitch, who promptly unloaded them with a double to left. Two runs scored to cut the deficit to 6-2 and end DeLong’s day.

“He walked his first guy and started a little rough, but he settled in nice,” Marlow said. “He’s got that nice, big breaking ball that he can locate for strikes, and he started locating the fastball a little more consistently as the game went on.”

With one out, two on and Logan Montague on in relief, J.P. Parfejewicz ripped a sinking liner down the left-field line. Russell ran a long way and was able to reach out and snag it on the dead run for the second out of the inning. Montague got out of the jam by coaxing a pop out to second to end the threat.

“That ball that Russell got to in the sixth, if he doesn’t get to it, that could have easily rolled a long way and resulted in two more runs and cut our lead to two,” Marlow said. “You’re looking at a much different scenario if he doesn’t make that great catch. It would have been 6-4 with a runner on second or maybe even third with one out, so that was a big play on his part.”

Added Russell: “At first, I thought it was a diving play on the line, but it hooked a little bit. I got a good read on it, luckily, and it felt good to catch it.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.

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