AVON LAKE — Colin Flinn may have been looking for a fastball, but it turned out that a fastball came looking for him instead.
With one out and the bases loaded in the bottom of the 10th inning of a Southwestern Conference baseball game April 24 against Westlake, Flinn was tasked with finding a way — any way — to bring home the winning run for the host Shoremen and break a nine-all tie. If he was successful against Westlake reliever Scott Rennard, he would cap an eight-run swing that began with a furious seven-run rally in the seventh.
On a one-and-one count, Rennard reared back and fired a fastball that ran a little too far inside on the right-handed Flinn, hitting him in the back and walking home the winning run in Alex Harrington. Avon Lake, which entered the bottom of the seventh down 9-2, had come all the way back to beat the Demons 10-9.
“I was just looking for a good pitch to hit,” Flinn said. “First one, I kind of took a big swing through. The next two, I was looking for a nice, level swing and put the ball in play and I got hit, so I’ll take it.”
The victory continued a wild week for the Shoremen (7-8, 5-8 SWC), who beat Avon in walk-off fashion two days prior and have been looking for a spark during an up-and-down season.
“We’re hoping this is a sort of momentum-builder,” Shoremen coach Kevin Marlow said. “We played a real good game on Monday and won on Monday and we didn’t play that great the whole way today, but we did enough and hopefully that’ll give us momentum for the rest of the season.”
Ethan Shepard led off the 10th with a single, but was ruled out at second after being called for dead ball interference on Harrington’s ensuing grounder to Rennard. Aidan Jantz followed with a single to right field, and the Demons (7-8, 3-8) elected to intentionally walk Aidan Shoop to load the bases. Flinn then took one for the team, giving Avon Lake its third win in five games.
“We started playing for each other and not just playing for ourselves,” Flinn said. “We kind of came together as a team and strung some runs together.”
Before the Shoremen put the finishing touches on their win, they first had to pull a big rally out of thin air against a Demons team that had dominated play for most of the afternoon. Thanks to multi-run innings early, Westlake led 5-0 after two and 8-2 after three. It added an insurance run in the fifth to go up 9-2, and steady pitching performances from starter Noah Marlette and reliever Pat LaVecchia had the Shoremen reeling and down to their final three outs.
Rather quickly, thanks to a double-play grounder from Jantz, they were actually down to their final out. Then out of nowhere, hitting became contagious.
With Shepard on third following the double-play, Shoop drew a walk on four straight pitches, then Flinn sent a RBI single to right. Gage Duesler hit the first pitch he saw for a single to center, scoring Shoop. Alec Negron legged out an infield hit to short to load the bases, then Aidan Grabowski drew a four-pitch walk to bring in Flinn. C.J. Brausch ripped a two-run single to center in the next at-bat to pull the Shoremen within striking distance, 9-7, and chase LaVecchia from the game.
With Rennard in to relieve, Shepard popped up to first baseman Jack Hlavin, but the ball bounced out of his glove for an error, reloading the bases. On Rennard’s next offering, Harrington sent a chopper to Joe Paul at short that he easily corralled, but his throw skidded underneath Hlavin’s outstretched glove and rolled to the fence in front of the Avon Lake dugout, allowing Grabowski and Brausch to score the tying runs.
“We hit that seventh inning, and we were able to start squaring up on some balls,” Marlow said. “We were fortunate in a couple instances, but the at-bats (in the seventh) were drastically better (than the previous six), and we were able to squeak out a few runs and tie it up then win in extra innings.”
The Demons loaded the bases in the top of the eighth, but a two-out Patrick Hartup grounder was gloved by a diving Shoop, who flipped the ball to Shepard to save a run or more. Westlake didn’t threaten again, as Shoremen reliever Kevin McKinley and a stout defense shut the door.
McKinley earned the win after throwing five scoreless innings in relief of Matt Kovacs and starter Nick Bockelman. He surrendered six hits and a walk while striking out three. Rennard took the hard-luck loss for Westlake after 2⅔ innings, allowing one run on three hits and a walk.
In relief of starter Noah Marlette, LaVecchia threw 3⅓ innings and was charged with seven runs (five earned) on eight of Avon Lake’s 15 total hits.
Errors proved costly for both teams, with three Avon Lake miscues helping Westlake to its big early lead, and two of Westlake’s four mistakes leading to the late tie.
“The little things will always come back to bite you in the butt,” Demons coach Larry Mosley said. “When you’re up seven, you expect the routine things to be done routinely, and today we didn’t get it done. It was a situation where guys started looking at each other instead of looking within to stop the bleeding or make the play to win the ballgame.
“The nice thing about being in Ohio and the SWC conference is that there’s another game the next day and the day after that and the day after that (to get back on track),” he said.
The Demons pounded out 16 hits and were led by Paul and Dan Carbeck with three apiece. Three others had two-hit days, and Hartup drove in three runs. Jantz led Avon Lake with three hits, while four others had two. Brausch and Flinn each drove in two runs.
Avon Lake will host Amherst today at 4:30 p.m., while Westlake will travel to Midview for a 4:30 p.m. start.
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