ROCKY RIVER — For the second time in two days and for the last time under the banner of the Patriot Athletic Conference, the Lutheran West Longhorns baseball team fell to Columbia
April 17. Unlike their contest on the previous day — a 4-3 pitchers’ duel — this game was a high-scoring, back-and-forth contest, which the Raiders won 14-13.
It didn’t end without controversy, though.
Longhorns second baseman Jeremiah Stover came to the plate in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and no one on. With the count at 3-2, the next pitch appeared to earn Stover a walk and he turned to drop his bat. But after a delay, the home plate umpire called it a strike, which ended the game. The home fans and coaches went into an uproar.
This call just capped fans’ and players’ frustrations with the umpire. Throughout the game, both dugouts and fans could be heard yelling at the ump, questioning his calls and venting their frustrations on borderline calls.
After the game, Lutheran West head coach Trey Lamb’s emotions were so high he didn’t address his team on the field, but he said he would talk to his players the next day.
“We fought back, they fought back,” Lamb said. “It was the type of game that we like to play. I just wish we could focus a little more on defense. That was pretty much the game. We gave away too many bases. On top of it, they had some very, very clutch hitting.”
The game had five lead changes and three ties after Columbia (8-4, 6-1 PAC) went up 2-0 in the first inning. In the bottom of the second, the Longhorns (7-5, 5-4 PAC) pulled ahead 4-2, only to have Columbia tie it at 4-4 in the top of the third. Lutheran West led again after the third 5-4, before the Raiders went up 6-5 in the fourth.
Not to be outdone, the Longhorns tacked on four runs in both the fourth and the fifth, with 10 batters coming to the plate each inning. Columbia tied it at 9 in the fifth, and then at 13 in the sixth. The Raiders sent all nine batters to the plate in each of those innings as well.
The difference came when, in the sixth, Lutheran West left fielder Hunter Albers grounded into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded, keeping the score tied at 13 as the Columbia dugout went into a frenzy.
When the Raiders came to the plate in the seventh, left fielder and standout running back for the Columbia football team Brandon Coleman reached on a one-out single and promptly stole second on the first pitch of the next at-bat. After fouling off four pitches with two strikes, Nick Milluzzi grounded out to the pitcher, keeping Coleman at second.
Then, with a 1-0 count, Columbia’s designated hitter Danny Snakovsky smacked a ball up the middle for a single, scoring Coleman with what proved to be the winning run.
“Our deal is, we will grind,” Columbia coach Dan Durante said. “And I told them, the winner of this game will be the team that grinds the longest. The team that loses is the team that stops, for whatever reason. I just kept telling these guys every inning: ‘Find a way, and keep freaking grinding.’ ”
That grinding paid off as the Raiders outhit Lutheran West 14-13. Leading Columbia, each with two hits, was Owen Menge (2-5, BB, R, RBI), Billy Turner (2-4, BB, R, RBI), Trevor Hotell (2-5, 2 2B, 4 RBI) and Coleman (2-4, BB, 3 R, 2 RBI). Also playing a key role was Carson Heidecker, who drove in three runs and scored one of his own.
The Longhorns were paced by Tyler Robinson (3-4, BB, 3 R, RBI), Trey DeCicco (3-4, HBP, 3 RBI) and John Smolik (2-3, 2 BB, R). Jake Albrecht and Ryan Szczepinski also drove in runs for Lutheran West.
Defensive miscues plagued both teams as they combined for 11 errors (eight on Columbia).
“There was only one word for the defensive play and it was ‘brutal,’ ” Durante said. “That’s what put us in that position in the first place. I’m sure (Lutheran West) is going to say the same thing. They kinda kicked the ball around a little as well. The defense has gotta be shored up. I’m having a heart attack watching these games.”
Lamb said after the game that even though a good portion of Lutheran West’s base runners either reached base or advanced due to errors, he was pleased with the contact that his team was making and is optimistic for the home stretch of the regular season.
“We continually try to preach middle half of the baseball — cut the baseball in half,” Lamb said. “You saw the first couple innings we flew out a bunch of times. We made those adjustments and that’s when we started scoring runs.
“It’s an everyday process learning baseball and we’re a young team too — we only have two seniors. Unfortunately, sometimes high school baseball isn’t the cleanest sport, so usually the team with the least amount of errors or mental errors wins the game.”
Both teams continue busy weeks tonight and Thursday as Columbia travels to Garfield Heights tonight before coming back home to play Firelands, both with 5 p.m. starts, in their third and fourth games in as many days. Lutheran West has a three-game homestand starting at 5 tonight against Oberlin, then Thursday against Wellington at 5 p.m. and Friday against Bay at 4:30 p.m.
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