July 30, 2014

Elyria
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High school baseball: Elyria players lean on the power of pizza, camaraderie to down Amherst, snap six-game skid

Amherst's Kody Bledsoe loses sight of the ball after it took a bounce while he was trying to make a play at second base. Rounding the corner and heading for third is Elyria's Jacob Czimadia. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

Amherst’s Kody Bledsoe loses sight of the ball after it took a bounce while he was trying to make a play at second base. Rounding the corner and heading for third is Elyria’s Jacob Czimadia. BRUCE BISHOP/CHRONICLE

AMHERST — A little pizza, the airing of grievances and a mutual understanding may be just what Elyria’s baseball team needed to turn the corner on its season.

The Pioneers actually pulled for each other Friday and played the game with a certain joy that had been missing all season, jumping out to a big lead and holding on for a 9-6 non-conference win at Amherst.

The win snapped Elyria’s six-game losing streak.

“They held a players-only meeting,” Elyria coach Ed Piazza said. “They went to Pizza Hut last night and talked about how they have to band together. That’s been the problem … stabbing each other in the back and blaming each other for losses. You could see they had a much different attitude today and it made a big difference.”

Senior Marques Inman made his first varsity start on the mound for the Pioneers (4-10), and though he had command problems, he was able to power through a couple of jams to get his first win.

Inman, who pitched exclusively in relief before Friday, did not allow a hit in three innings. He did walk seven and hit a batter, but the Comets left seven runners stranded in the first three innings, including the bases loaded in the first and second.

“I’m used to coming in in relief here and there so it was different,” Inman said. “But it’s something I could get used to. For me, when I’m under pressure is when I prosper. The bases loaded in the first inning really wasn’t anything for me. I’ve always had trouble locating pitches and when I found that groove I just went with it.”

Piazza decided to try Inman as a starter after watching him pitch in relief last week.

“If he can throw strikes, he has the power arm that we lack,” Piazza said. “We’re a pitch-to-hit team. If Marques can throw strikes, he’s going to be good. He settled down after those two innings. His pitch count got up there so we got him out of there. For his first start, I’m happy with what I saw. I think he’s permanently in the rotation.”

Elyria scored an unearned run in the second, which the Comets (11-5) answered in their half.

The Pioneers broke the game open with four runs in the third and four more in the fourth to take a 9-1 lead. Inman drove in a pair of runs in the third with a double to the right-center gap on a 2-1 fastball from Amherst starter Joe Masters.

In his next at-bat, Inman drove in a run with a single up the middle.

The Comets pulled to within 9-6 with five runs in the bottom of the fourth, but Mat McFrederick and Justin Victor were able to shut down the Amherst offense the rest of the way.

“If we can field and throw strikes we’re OK,” Piazza said. “That got away from us a little bit when it was 9-1 but I was happy we were able to fight off their rally. I was happy with the two-strike approach, which was something they worked on last night. Fielding and pitching … that’s what we have to do. We’re going to bang with people, we just have to field and stop the other team.”

Inman said the players-only meeting was just what the team needed.

“It was about finding team chemistry and not worrying about the negative things,” he said. “We went out there and forgot about everything bad and played the game. It felt great … that’s what we have to do to win games. We’re not going to blow anyone out, we just have to make the simple plays, get the clutch hits, make pitches and play for each other as a team.”

Comets’ coach Matt Rositano was at a loss for words when asked about his team’s effort.

“That was bad,” he said. “From start to finish it was bad. There was a complete lack of focus. This game is hard enough when you’re mentally prepared. When you aren’t mentally focused it will eat you alive, and that’s exactly what happened today. I have no words for what just happened.”

Jordan Williams had two hits and scored a run for Amherst while Rees Rua added a hit and a run scored. Ben Haywood and Brendon Koziura each had three hits for the Pioneers while Zach Shafstall had a hit and drove in a pair of runs.

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.

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