LORAIN — Lorain senior knuckleball pitcher Kyle Stumphauzer came into Wednesday’s key Lake Erie League clash with Cleveland Heights having just thrown a one-hitter.
Stumphauzer helped his Titans break the second-place tie with the Tigers and keep pace with first-place Euclid by doing it again.
His outing and Adrian Calez’s day at the plate — 4-for-4 with a triple, two RBIs and a run scored — led way as the Titans knocked Cleveland Heights 7-1 at The Pipe Yard.
Lorain, which had lost its last two games, improves to 11-6, 7-2 in the league, while Cleveland Heights falls to 7-5, 6-3.
“This was a must-win situation today after we let one slip away yesterday at Bedford,” Lorain coach Brad Ternes said. “That was a game that we should have won, so we really needed to come out today and get control of the game from the outset.
“Kyle kept his composure the whole game to keep us in it, and I couldn’t ask for more.”
Stumphauzer (3-0) had his knuckler dancing all over the place.
While he only struck out two, he did turn in five 1-2-3 innings and ended his day by retiring nine hitters in a row.
Other than an RBI single by Johnny Jones in the top of the third inning, the Tigers could only get four balls out of the infield on Stumphauzer.
“My knuckleball’s been performing really well lately,” said Stumphauzer, who had just two walks. “I just trust in it and trust my defense behind me that they’ll make the plays out there.
The weather’s getting warmer and that makes my knuckleball move. It’s feeling pretty good right now, so hopefully I can keep it up and I can keep getting the job done.”
Lorain gave Stumphauzer all the run support he needed with a six-run second, sending 12 batters to the plate and getting six hits and three walks.
Calez started the inning with a sharp liner down the right-field line that got lost in the corner of the fence. Calez was able to motor to third with a leadoff triple, setting the tone not only for the inning, but also for his own big day.
“I knew that would spark the team,” Calez said of his triple. “I knew we just needed one big hit to get us going.”
Calez scored on Nick Billingsley’s RBI double, and a single by Nate Drabiak and a walk to Desmond Guice loaded the bases for No. 9 hitter Andre Morales.
Morales hit a fielder’s choice grounder to short that forced the runner at second, but Billingsley scored to make it 2-0.
D.J. Hisle followed with an RBI single to right to increase the lead to 3-0, and a passed ball and a walk loaded the bases once again. The walk to Ryan Osko ended the day for Tigers starter Aaron Stanich (2-2).
Aaron Andujar followed with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Morales to make it 4-0. Then, in his second at-bat of the inning, Calez delivered a two-run single to right to make it 6-0.
“This was a game we’ve been waiting for,” Calez said. “We kept getting rained out and we finally got a chance to play. We came out here and we were ready for it after two losses in a row. Now, hopefully, we can turn this into some wins in a row.”
Stumphauzer’s only trouble came in the third, when two walks, a single and an error led to two runs. However, he got out of the jam with a foul pop to the catcher and a groundout to second.
“The way he controls himself and the way he keeps his cool on the mound are his biggest assets,” Ternes said. “On top of the fact that he’s got that knuckleball working and it’s hard to hit. Guys keep popping up or drilling it into the ground.
“That also helps your defense because they’re always staying on their toes instead of falling asleep, like what could happen behind a strikeout pitcher. Our defense played very well today.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.