ELYRIA — After Elyria started the season by losing 10 of 13 games, the team held a players-only meeting to clear the air. The Pioneers emerged with a different attitude, deciding to come together and rely on each other.
Junior Marques Inman put the Pioneers on his shoulders Friday and carried them to the Division I district semifinals anyway, proving that within the team concept there is occasionally room for a one-man show.
Inman pitched a complete-game one-hitter, striking out seven and walking two. He also collected a pair of hits, scored a run and drove in another in Elyria’s 3-0 sectional final victory over Lakewood at Ely Stadium.
The Pioneers (12-14) will face top-seeded Amherst at The Pipe Yard on Monday at 5 p.m.
“I was doing everything I could to get us to The Pipe Yard,” Inman said. “That’s been our motto — to get to The Pipe Yard. Now we want to get to regionals.”
Inman threw 98 pitches, 62 for strikes. He threw 59 fastballs and 39 curves. No Rangers baserunner advanced past first base. The only hit he allowed was a two-out single to cleanup hitter Max Lavisky in the fourth inning.
“He threw a great game,” said Lakewood coach Mike Ribar, whose team ended its season at 15-12-1. “Our guys had good approaches. They saw his curveball and everything, but he threw it for strikes.
“In high school baseball if you can throw your secondary pitches for strikes, you have a good chance. His fastball had enough on it and it kept us at bay.”
Elyria scored its first run in the top of the first inning. Center fielder Zack Rosenkoetter was hit by a pitch to lead off. He stole second base and was bunted to third by Brendon Koziura. After Jacob Csizmadia struck out for the second out, Inman drilled a 1-2 curve deep into the left-center gap to drive home Rosenkoetter for a 1-0 lead.
The score stayed that way until the bottom of the fourth. Inman singled to shallow left with one out. Brodie Stewart then smashed a fastball to the base of the wall in left, scoring Zach Schuster, who was a courtesy runner for Inman.
Stewart was thrown out trying to advance to third on the throw home, but Zach Shaffstall walked, advanced to third on Ben Haywood’s single and scored on a wild pitch to give Elyria a 3-0 advantage.
Inman made it stand up.
“We don’t have too many power pitchers so we’ve been working with him for a few weeks,” Pioneers coach Ed Piazza said. “Once he throws strikes he doesn’t try to overthrow or blow people away. He just throws strikes and mixes his pitches up.”
“I was very comfortable out there,” Inman added. “My arm felt good and I was throwing strikes. When I could throw my secondary pitches for strikes it gave me a ton of confidence.”
The Pioneers will face the team they went up against earlier this season when everything turned around. The team meeting happened at Pizza Hut the night before Elyria defeated Amherst 9-6. The Pioneers have won nine of 13 since.
“Now they are playing for each other, not for individual stats,” Piazza said. “They aren’t fighting with each other or blaming each other. They’re picking each other up when there’s a mistake. That’s key for us. As long as this team stays positive, they will overcome their mistakes.”
Inman put it bluntly.
“When we went to Pizza Hut then played Amherst, it was the turning point of the season,” he said. “Before that we were a team. Now we’re a family.”
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.