STRUTHERS – The difference, Springfield coach Terry Dobson said, came down to focus.
Held to just one run on three hits through six innings of play, the Tiger bats came to life in the seventh.
Springfield notched three hits in the final frame as part of a three-run rally that sent the Tigers past Struthers on Saturday afternoon, 4-3.
“We were more focused, period,” Dobson said. “Not because we won in the last inning, but (our players’) approach at the plate versus the first six innings – the first six innings were ridiculous.”
Indeed, up until that point, Struthers (0-3) starter Drew Day had kept the Tigers off balance. Though he did not feature any dominating heat, Day mixed his pitches and spots well to keep himself out of trouble. He finished with six innings of work and struck out four against a Springfield (2-1) team that had tallied at least nine hits in each of its first two games.
In the final inning, Day was pulled after he hit the first batter with a pitch and then allowed a single by Alex Rothwell, putting two Tiger runners on with no outs.
Afterward, Ronnie Leonard came on in relief and fanned the first batter he faced. However, Kolten Ruark followed with a bloop single to right field to score a run, and then Braden Butler tied the game with a sac fly.
Nick Slike capped the comeback with an RBI single to give Springfield its 4-3 lead.
“(We were) hitting off the front foot and not waiting for pitches to come in (prior),” Dobson said of the first six innings. “And then put the ball on the ground – if you do not do that, you do not have a chance in high school ball. “When you put the ball in the air and nine out of 10 outs are fly balls, it’s very easy (for opponents) to stay in the game.”
The Wildcats had grabbed their lead on Tiger starter Alex Rothwell with a three-run third inning. Grady Moore and Caleb Sakara singled and walked, respectively, to begin the inning. After a fielder’s choice, Chance Laczko singled in a run. Two batters later, Olindo Pezzone doubled to score another pair and put Struthers up 3-0.
Aside from that frame, though, Rothwell was dominant. He finished with nine strikeouts, and gave up the three runs on three hits and two walks across five innings of work. Ruark came on in relief in the sixth and allowed just one hit and no walks. He struck out three.
“Our pitchers did a very good job,” Dobson said. “They were consistent. They weren’t perfect, but in high school ball, nobody’s going to be perfect. They were consistent, and both of them know how to throw strikes. ”
Though the ending was not what Struthers coach Tommy Otto was in search of, he had high praise for Day.
“Drew pitched a great game for us today,” Otto said. “It’s a shame we could not find a way to win. We’re a work in progress, and we have to figure out ways to get off the field. “
That, he says, is part of an effort the Wildcats will need in order to piece everything together into one game. Struthers lost its first two contests of the season to Lakeview by scores of 7-5 and 14-11.
With time, Otto feels, things will fall into place. Moore and Pezzone each doubled for the Wildcats, and Moore finished with a pair of hits.
“We just have to put a whole game together in all aspects,” he added. “Drew threw strikes today, and we had a good outing out of Olindo. Chance had a good outing, and Ronnie came in and I thought threw well for us at the end. We just have to put a complete game together and find ways to get off the field. ”