OBERLIN — The three runs may have been unearned, but unfortunately for Elyria Catholic pitcher Joey Begany, those runs still counted on the scoreboard.
Independence scored a pair of unearned runs in the first, then, after Brycen Wise reached on a two-out error, pushed the winning run across in the bottom of the seventh in the Blue Devils’ 3-2 Division III Richfield district semifinal win over the Panthers at Oberlin College’s Dill Field.
Begany threw over 100 pitches against Lutheran West on Saturday, and came back on three days rest to face Independence. He allowed six hits and walked four while striking out six.
“Joey came back on three days rest and he threw the ball even better,” Panthers coach Bruce Lisicky said.
Independence coach Mark Echstenkamper was impressed with Begany’s outing as well.
“Begany, I know he threw over 100 pitches on Saturday,” Echstenkamper said. “For him to come back on Wednesday and give this kind of performance was outstanding. It was a gutsy performance.”
Unfortunately for EC, Blue Devils starter Mike Martin was just as dominant. He came into the game having surrendered just one earned run and one walk all season, and improved to 7-0 by limiting the Panthers (17-11) to just three hits.
One of those hits, however, almost left the yard. In the sixth inning, Begany drilled a two-strike fastball to the right-centerfield gap that hit the fence about one foot from the top, just to the left of the 375-foot sign. Begany ended up with an RBI triple that tied the game at 2-2.
“When I hit it I thought it was gone,” Begany said. “But you can never assume that.”
Echstenkamper said his pitcher made a mistake.
“Elyria Catholic is a great team and we knew coming into this game that they have certain guys you can’t make mistakes to. Begany is one of them,” he said. “He and Mike (Martin) played together in the summer and I think Mike reached back to try to blow it by him and Joey hit it. He’s a great hitter.”
The game remained tied heading to the bottom of the seventh. Begany retired the first two hitters and appeared to be out of the inning when Wise hit a sharp groundball to Omar Vazquez at third base. Vazquez’ throw sailed high of Panthers first baseman Noah Bland for an error.
Martin followed with a single before Brett Teare walked to load the bases, bringing up Blue Devils’ cleanup hitter Alex Scotten.
Four pitches later the game was over.
Begany’s pitches were all around the plate, but he did not get a call.
“He was calling that low strike the whole game,” Lisicky said of the plate umpire. “Joey had those last two pitches that were right there … right on the corner. I don’t know, all the sudden he started squeezing in the last inning. But we shouldn’t have been in that position.”
Echstenkamper wasn’t apologizing for anything.
“You hate to win on a bases-loaded walk, but at this point in the season we’ll take it,” he said.
Begany thought Martin was the difference.
“As a team we played well,” he said. “Independence is a really good team. We didn’t make too many mental mistakes but Independence made all their plays and Mike threw strikes. That really helped them out. If we played them 10 times they would win five and we would win five … they just won this one.”
Independence, the sixth-ranked Division III team in the state at 21-3, will play Akron Manchester in the district final today at Revere High School.
- Independence had a run erased in the bottom of the sixth when the base umpire ruled Austin Buc interfered with Panthers shortstop Lukas Redmond, who was trying to complete a double play.
- Former MLB slugger Mo Vaughn was at the game. Vaughn, who has a home in Gates Mills, is friends with Panthers designated hitter Dominic Piazza’s family.
- Begany’s near home run snapped an 0-for-15 slump.
Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or email@example.com.