Myers finds stride

Fitch senior catcher paces Falcons in dominating win against Howland

Special to the Tribune / Dianna Oatridge Austintown Fitch's Christian Myers (2) points to the sky in celebration after hitting a two-run home in the bottom of the fifth inning to end their game, a 12-2 victory against Howland at Richard Coppola Field on Monday.

AUSTINTOWN — Just one little tweak might have turned Christian Myers’ season around — and it certainly hasn’t hurt the Fitch Falcons either.

Just a few weeks ago, Myers was mired in a slump, popping balls up left and right and lost at the plate. The Fitch senior was frustrated and struggling to produce as the Falcons’ three hitter.

“Before, I was really underneath the ball and dipping my back shoulder,” said Myers, Fitch’s catcher. “But now I’m choked up on the bat about half an inch, and I’m just keeping my shoulder up, coming through hard, not dipping underneath the ball and keeping my eye right down on the ball.

“That’s one of the major adjustments.”

Myers tripled and homered, with his two-run shot putting an end to Fitch’s 12-2 five-inning run-rule of Howland at Richard L. Coppola Field on Monday.

Special to the Tribune / Dianna Oatridge Austintown Fitch's Christian Myers makes contact during the Falcons' 12-2 victory over Howland at Richard Coppola Field on Monday.

Myers has been a big part of the the Falcons’ success.

They’re 12-4 overall overall and 6-1 in the All-American Conference Red Tier. Fitch has been solid all year, thanks in large part to quality starting pitching, but the Falcons have been moving toward playing at an elite level as of late. Their recent surge seems to be falling in line with Myers’ improvements. The short yet stocky senior is one of the team’s leaders and started the year in three hole.

“Christian’s fluctuated in the lineup all year,” said Fitch coach Joe Paris of him batting sixth Monday. “He started out at the three, and then he had some struggles, so I moved him down in the order. He got ironed out, and now he’s slowly making his way back up again. But when a guy gets comfortable, I don’t like moving him, so I’m going to keep there for a while, especially after his swinging today.

“One thing he doesn’t do, usually, is drive the ball the other way like he did today. That’s a great sign.”

It was a trend for the Falcons.

They smacked three triples (two to the opposite field) to go along with Myers’ walk-off home run. They also took advantage of 13 walks by the Tigers (3-9, 2-7), scoring in every inning and constantly putting pressure on Howland.

Fitch led 1-0 and appeared ready to go quietly in the second after two strikeouts to start the second inning. The Tigers followed with six straight walks, and Fitch scored three runs without a single base hit.

“This was one of the first times our pitchers got really beat up,” Howland coach Zach Byler said. “Some timely hits for them — they’re hitting bases-clearing triples. They had a couple more hits than us, and they were all RBI hits. That last one was a perfect example. … The walks were really killing us, and they were capitalizing on it.”

Fitch added two more runs in the third inning and three in each the fourth and fifth innings. Myers’ shot just cleared the left-field fence and came with one out and one on in the bottom of the fifth. It was his third homer of the year.

“When you see the umpire go like this (twirling his fingers in a circle), it’s a pretty good feeling,” Myers said with a smile. “It’s nice to see that once in a while. Finally getting out of my slump and hitting the ball hard.”

Fitch, which went 7-1 to start the month of April, just returned from a trip to Myrtle Beach.

The Falcons faced some difficult pitchers during the spring break venture and finished 2-2. Facing tough competition helped them improve, but the overall camaraderie gained from spending so much time together might be even more important.

“We were always together, no matter what we were doing,” Myers said. “Even if it was a small group of us, the other group was doing something — playing spike ball or football or throwing something around. We were always together. We were never away from each other.”

Howland was been trending in the other direction.

The Tigers started out 3-0, but Byler said hitting woes have plagued them ever since. They managed just four hits against Fitch starter Pat Coleman, who struck out three and didn’t walk a batter in five innings.

“Four hits is good for us right now,” Byler said. “We’re just struggling with hitting right now. We’re playing defense pretty good. Pitching has been the thing that keeps us in some games, but other teams are continuing to not leave guys on and just keep pecking and pecking and pecking, and by seven innings, they’re beating us 8-1, 8-2 because they’re scoring consistently and we’re just putting up one run or goose eggs.”

The two teams meet again at 5 p.m. today in Howland.