Lakeview holds off Newton Falls

CORTLAND — A wild first inning in Thursday’s Lakeview-Newton Falls baseball game saw a combined 13 runs cross the plate. The Bulldogs were on the right side of the scoreboard, as they scored 10 runs in the opening inning and hung on for an 11-10, six-inning victory.

“That was unbelievable. I mean, both ways, just a lot of hits, pitching wasn’t the greatest in the first inning,” first-year Lakeview coach Mike Johnson said. “But, we had the bats rolling off the get-go, we’ve been struggling all year, it looked like a great sign.”

After the game started 20 minutes later than scheduled, the first inning took a whopping 40 minutes to complete. Lakeview had freshman pitcher Austin Vogt on the mound, and the Tiger hitters — many of whom are freshmen themselves, got to him early.

A walk, an error and a fielder’s choice within the first three batters put the Tigers on the board first. A Hayden Gazda two-out single to left field plated another run, while starting pitcher Preston Rapczak added a single past third to give Newton Falls a 3-0 advantage, heading into the bottom of the first inning.

However, despite Newton Falls’ strong start — which included eight hitters coming up to bat — it paled in comparison with what the Bulldogs were about to do in the bottom of the inning.

An error at third base gave Lakeview its first run, quickly followed a Danny Brammer double to the left field gap that scored Brock Sarko. After just four batters, Rapczak was pulled for David Hukari.

Hukari, however, didn’t fare much better. A single tied the game at 3-3, followed by a two-run double from Preston Sheets, a two-run single by Jimmy Guinn and a two-run single to right field by Brammer, putting the Bulldogs ahead, 10-3. In all, Lakeview sent 15 batters to the plate, and didn’t record an out until the ninth hitter.

“I threw kids who haven’t thrown in awhile — like ever,” Newton Falls coach Rob Bauman said, laughing. “So, it’s one of those games, and we’ve got eight games in eight days. So, I’ve exhausted all my pitching, I threw a bunch of freshmen.

“This a team — they’re young, yes — but this is a team I want to be in the trenches with, because they’re gonna go down fighting. They could have easily laid down when they put up 10 in that first inning, but we battled back until it was called for darkness. Who knows what would have happened in that seventh (inning).”

The Bulldogs (4-4) added another run in the second inning, thanks to a DePizzo triple that went off of the left field fence. Newton Falls, trailing by seven in the third inning, began to slowly battle back.

The Tigers added a run in the fourth, and then got a spectacular performance from freshman pitcher Jordan Edmondson, who allowed just one hit and no runs in three innings of work, keeping them alive the rest of the way.

On the offensive end, the Tigers bats did not slow down, as a wild pitch that scored Hayden Sherwood was followed by Gazda RBI single to center to cut the deficit to 11-7, in the fourth inning.

Newton Falls (3-4) tightened the grip even more in the fifth, as it plated three more runs, making it an 11-10 Bulldog lead. With the sun going down and the game closing in on eight o’clock, it was decided that the sixth inning would be the final inning. However, Sheets, who came in to close out the game, faced just four Tiger batters and was able to clinch the win for the Bulldogs.

Like Newton Falls, Lakeview has plenty of youth on its roster, including 14 underclassmen.

“The seniors on this team, as a first year coach, I couldn’t be happier with the leadership they bring,” Johnson said.

“Great leadership — I appreciate that from them — because they can show the juniors and the sophomores, ‘Hey, this is how you’re supposed to act, this is how you’re supposed to practice.’

“That’s the biggest thing is the seniors setting the example. Then you have a couple sophomores and freshmen with big innings, big at-bat’s, getting on base, pitching. It’s been a good mix — not senior loaded — just even throughout, which is good.”