NORTH RIDGEVILLE — Just as North Olmsted began a seventh-inning rally in its Division I sectional game against Elyria at Victory Sports Park, a bright rainbow appeared beyond left field, which seemed like a good sign for the Eagles.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow turned out to be under the Pioneers bench, as relief pitcher Marques Inman got a strikeout and a popup with two runners on to preserve a 7-6 win for Elyria.
“I just wanted to come in and throw strikes,” said Inman, who earned his second save of the season. “I had to let them put the ball in play and let my defense do their thing. It doesn’t matter what we did in the regular season now, we just want to keep winning in the playoffs.”
Elyria (11-14) advanced to play Lakewood, which beat Lorain in extra innings Tuesday as they completed a suspended game. The sectional final is today.
“We had two chances at the end and we didn’t get enough done,” Eagles coach Tim Murphy said. “We just gave away too much early in the game. We were close. It’s just been a couple of weeks of not getting the job done.”
The Pioneers went up early with an unearned run in the first and two more in the second inning when Zack Rosenkoetter knocked in a pair of runs after a double-play ball up the middle earlier in the inning was dropped to keep the inning alive.
“We’ve been working hard at the top of the order,” said Rosenkoetter, the leadoff hitter who went 3-for-5 with three RBIs and a stolen base. “That’s something we’ve been able to do all year and we came through again today.”
Elyria gave two back to North Olmsted (11-14) in the bottom of the second when Scott Cooney (2-for-4, two doubles) scored on a single from Matt Starcovic.
Starcovic came around to score on the same play when a throw from the catcher sailed into center field, allowing him to cover the final two bases.
The Pioneers continued scoring, with two in the fourth and single runs in the fifth and sixth to run the score to 7-3.
Brendon Koziura drove in a pair with a one-out single, Rosenkoetter knocked in Ben Haywood with a single to left and Jacob Csizmadia scored a run on an error.
That’s when things got interesting for the Pioneers.
North Olmsted picked up an unearned run in the bottom of the sixth off starting pitcher Brodie Stewart (2-3) and was threatening with the bases loaded and one out.
Justin Victor got a short fly to center and a ground ball to first base to kill the rally and leave North Olmsted trailing 7-4 going to the final inning.
North Olmsted’s first five batters reached base to start the seventh. Sam Kessler knocked in the first run with a rocket to third base that was knocked down by Stewart and turned into a force-out.
“I was not ready for that at all,” Stewart said of the hard-hit ball. “That’s the first time I have ever played third base and I wasn’t sure what to do with the ball right away. I’m just glad that I was able to get in front of it and make the stop.”
Tommy Sullivan cut the Pioneers’ lead to 7-6 with a single through the middle. That brought in Inman, who’s scheduled to start today, to strike out Cal Smith looking and get Zach Gillard to pop out to short with the wind gusting and the rainbow fading.
“Those guys at the bottom of the order have been doing that all year,” Elyria coach Ed Piazza said. “We put guys like Haywood and Shaffstall down there because they can get on base and then let the top of the order drive them in and produce.
“We don’t have much trouble scoring runs, so we just have to keep playing better defense and continue to get good pitching.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.