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Tigers overcome Preppers' hot start
Tigers overcome Preppers' hot start
By TONY LANGE
Early leads can be meaningless in high-scoring baseball games.
After falling behind, 4-0, against University School last Friday, the Chagrin Falls Tigers never had a doubt in their minds that they would come back for the win.
"We just always kept our heads up," Chagrin Falls center fielder Connor Gorman said. "We never thought we were going to lose the game. We knew we were going to come back and win the whole time. Never in our minds did we have a loss."
He was right.
The Tigers battled back to win, 11-5, and advanced to the 12-team Division II Jefferson District semifinals against Lake Catholic at 4:30 p.m. today (May 17) at the Jefferson Little League Complex.
With the triumph, Chagrin Falls improved to 17-10, winning their eighth straight game.
While the Tigers had a bye leading into their game against University School, the Preppers played the previous day and edged Orange, 4-3.
University School did save its No. 1 pitcher, John Nahra, for the Chagrin Falls contest. And that could have gotten into the Tigers' heads as they trailed, 4-0, after the top of the second inning.
Chagrin Falls just had to stay relaxed, remain focused and keep playing the way it had been, head coach Michael Sweeney said.
"We've been down before, so we just tried to stay positive," he said. "We knew that we'd start to hit the ball. I thought we were hitting the ball decent from the beginning and, hopefully, they would start falling and we'd catch back up, and we did."
While Nahra managed to hold a 4-2 lead through three innings for University School, the Tigers extinguished his firepower in the fourth inning with four runs.
In that inning, eighth-hole batter Jake Foltz walked, Joey Casarona singled to left field, and Danny Spain laid down a perfect bunt single to load the bases with one out.
Johnny Hallack hit Foltz home with a sacrifice fly to center field. Keith Orzen then hit an RBI double through the left-center gap to tie the game at 4-4.
Kurt Vidmer then walked to reload the bases, which induced a pitching change for University School -- taking Nahra out and putting Hunter Wasser in.
Undeterred, Gorman stepped to the plate and hit a two-out, full-count, two-RBI single to give the Tigers a 6-4 lead.
"Baseball is a funny game in that, when guys make plays in the field, everybody starts to make plays, and when guys swing it, everybody swings it," Sweeney said. "We knew that we had to keep scoring. They swung the bats well. They hit the ball hard up and down the line. So we had to keep at it."
In the top of the fifth, University School's Mike Iacona homered over the 330-yard mark in left field to bring the Preppers back to within one run.
That's when Chagrin Falls brought in relief pitcher Jackson Nafziger.
With two outs and Preppers on the corners, Wasser tiptoed off of first base to induce a rundown in hopes Tyler Eden would score from third base before Chagrin Falls could tag him out.
From the mound, Nafzinger threw the ball to Tiger second baseman Casarona, and Eden took off from third base toward home. Casarona ignored the rundown situation and threw the ball to home plate, where catcher Brian Stack tagged out Eden to end the inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Chagrin tallied five straight hits and scored five more runs to secure the 11-5 victory as Nafziger closed three innings on the mound without giving up a run.
Keith Orzen started on the mound for Tigers and earned the win.
While Orzen said he was not pleased with giving up five runs, he was happy he could contribute offensively as he batted two-for-two with two doubles, two RBIs, a walk and hit by a pitch.
"I came out really excited on the mound, but I just didn't have it today. My fastball wasn't getting by them, and my curve ball wasn't breaking enough," he said. "It's awesome helping the team out with my bat. I just stayed back and waited for my pitch. The coaches said to be selective, and it worked."
Gorman also reached base with each of his at-bats as he went two-for-two with two singles, two RBIs and two walks.
Meanwhile, Hallack batted two-for-three with a double, a single, two RBIs and a sacrifice fly. At shortstop, he led an errorless defensive effort.
"That's just something that we've been working on all year, starting with when we went to Myrtle Beach, and that's definitely helped us in the field," he said. "Playing with a flawless defense is something we work on every day in practice, so it's great to see. We haven't made an error in four or five games, if I'm not mistaken, so we're doing great, and we want to keep it going."
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