GV rallies past Windham, 4-1

Tribune Chronicle / Bob Ettinger Windham first baseman Erik Roche secures the ball for the out as Josh Cunningham of Grand Valley hustles down the line Thursday at Grand Valley.

ORWELL — Grand Valley pitcher Tyler Butler entered the Northeastern Athletic Conference battle against Windham on Thursday with the Mustangs trailing by a run. Three innings later, he and the Mustangs were victorious by a 4-1 score.

“Really, I think what helped us out was Tyler Butler,” Grand Valley coach Matt Brumit said. “He came on in relief of Logan Newell, who’s one of our better pitchers and was struggling. He was pretty high in his pitch count. Tyler was the reason we won tonight.”

Butler came on following a one-out double by the Bombers’ Calvin Harvey and proceeded to strike out the next two batters, stranding Harvey at third (following a wild pitch). He retired the next six in order to give the Mustangs (4-1, 4-0) the win.

“Tyler did an outstanding job,” Brumit said. “He came in and threw strikes. He made them put the ball in play. He located his fastball well and used his curve off of that. He got a lot of swings and misses with his curve. He kept them off balance.”

The Bombers (6-3, 5-1) missed a golden opportunity to knock Grand Valley off its feet.

Jake Kocab of Grand Valley hurdles Windham catcher Blaze Angle to avoid the tag as umpire Steve Perry watches the play in Northeastern Athletic Conference action on Thursday night at Grand Valley. Kocab was out on the play.

“Our approach at the plate has to be better, especially with runners in scoring position,” Windham coach Zack Burns said. “The kids were trying to do too much. Instead of putting the ball in play, it leads to strikeouts in critical situations.

“Every game I write down two or three things, win or lose, that we can do better. Today, I wrote down we needed to have a better approach at the plate. We try to learn something from every game, win or lose.”

The Mustangs came up in the home half of the fifth and tallied three times to turn the contest in their favor.

“(Butler’s two strikeouts in the top of the fifth) changed the momentum of the game,” Brumit said. “Those were two big outs there. Then we were able to string some things together.”

Logan Sines led off with a single and moved up on a passed ball. After Jake Kocab walked, Gary Gearhart brought Sines around to score from second with his second hit of the game to knot the score, 1-1. Kocab was thrown out at the plate trying to score and Gearhart raced all the way to third on the play at the plate.

Grand Valley reliever Tyler Butler fires to the plate against Windham in Northeastern Athletic Conference action at Grand Valley on Thursday.

Jake Reicheck was hit by a pitch a batter later and Nick Reicheck bounced to third. The throw, however, was in the dirt allowing Gearhart and Jake Reicheck to score to put Grand Valley in front, 3-1, heading to the sixth.

“Defense has been the Achilles’ heel at Windham for a long time,” Burns said. “That’s something we work on in practice. The guys just have to play more baseball. Repetition, repetition, repetition. If we want to take the next step, we have to play better defense.”

“The error by the defense definitely helped us out,” Brumit said. “If that error wasn’t made, it would’ve changed the way I coached. We believe in our ability to play the game. None of the boys seemed to panic. We went with the flow of the game instead of putting undue pressure on ourselves.”

Instead of Brumit having to manage differently, Burns had to change tactics. The Bombers just couldn’t turn the tide back in their favor.

“We haven’t been down a lot this year,” Burns said. “We’re still learning to play from behind, especially being an inexperienced group of kids. We have to go through it to learn how to handle it. We’re still learning on the fly.”

Windham center fielder Phillip Maiorca settles under the ball to record an out against Grand Valley in Northeastern Athletic Conference action on Thursday at Grand Valley.

The Bombers went up, 1-0, in the second after Tyler Collins walked to lead off and was sacrificed to second by Jordan Wright. Bailey Rutherford walked and Phillip Maiorca followed with an infield single to load the bases. After a strikeout, Mason Angle was hit by a pitch to score Collins. A strikeout ended the inning there.

“We’re a very young team,” Burns said. “We have a team full of freshmen and sophomores. When you have a team of freshmen and sophomores, it’s a learning process. Putting together good at-bats and a good approach at the plate is something we’re working on.

“Our offense has been really good. Their pitchers did a great job moving the ball around and keeping us off balance. We knew it would be an effort to score runs. We knew it would be a low-scoring game and we’d have to do everything we could to manufacture runs.”