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Capan, Wilms lead ’Dogs past GV

CORTLAND — Before the bottom half of the seventh inning, Lakeview coach Mike Johnson could be heard telling his players to rally together and start making some noise after his team failed to close out the Grand Valley Mustangs to force a last at-bat.

The Bulldogs had already lost a 7-1 lead and their bullpen and defense struggled over the final three innings after seemingly being in control for the first four.

A double from Tyler Capan to left field off Casey Turner started off the seventh and the Bulldogs went on to beat the Mustangs, 10-9.

“Capan has been hitting the ball really well all season,” Johnson said. “He had two real hard hits right at people today already. I had a feeling he was going to get a big hit and it happened to be a double which is obviously really good.”

That brought Jake Wilms to the plate, who was 2-for-2, had reached the other two times on errors and had three RBIs already in the game.

“If Jake wasn’t hitting the ball so well this year, I probably would have had him bunt and got Capan to third with one out, but he’s been hitting the ball all season,” Johnson said. “I just trusted Jake to get him in. I just pretty much knew Jake was going to get a hit.”

That thinking was correct.

Facing an 0-2 count, Wilms shot a single into the right center gap to score Capan and give Lakeview a the walk-off victory.

“I was trying to hit the ball hard,” Wilms said. “We had a guy on second. I wanted to get him over to third. Got down 0-2 and was just trying to protect. I got one where I like it and just put it in play and it got down.”

Before Wilms’ heroics, it seemed like the Bulldogs were going to run away from the Mustangs.

After Grand Valley went up 1-0 on DJ Webb’s double in the first, Webb retired the Bulldogs in the opening inning on 14 pitches and two strikeouts.

The Mustangs went 1-2-3 in the top of the second.

Back-to-back RBIs from Capan and Wilms put the Bulldogs up 2-1 after two.

Gavin Mauger got through the third inning on a 6-4-3 double play and was seemingly coasting as Lakeview added five runs into the bottom half of the inning thanks to back-to-back errors on Grand Valley shortstop Dane Sparks.

Evan Pirtz’s single made it 3-1.

A throwing error on a steal made it 4-1. Facing an 0-2 count and two outs, Wilms’ hit went under the glove of Sparks to make it 7-1.

“It’s always a bonus to build a lead like that,” Johnson said. “We had a plan going into the game that we were throwing our starter out there for four innings.

“I was going to bring hopefully the second guy in for the last three innings and then he was going to finish off the ballgame.”

Though Mauger’s pitch count got high enough in the 80s for Johnson to make a call to his bullpen.

Stephen Pavlanksy came in and all of a sudden the script changed with Derek Jackson and Webb reaching on errors as the Mustangs climbed back into the game at 7-6 thanks to three straight singles from Matthew Wengerd, Zach Hall, and Jackson.

“This year we’ve made some errors defensively and we haven’t really hit in the games where we’ve done that,” Grand Valley coach Matthew Brumit said. “Our pitching has always been there. Today, we made some errors early and we overcame them with the bats. Not enough, because we didn’t get to win, but I thought the kids did a great job battling and putting the the ball in play.”

That they did as they answered each time in the final three innings.

“We got the early lead and then they made a comeback,” Johnson said. “We had a couple unfortunate balls that dropped but they also hit the ball really well. They had three hits they strung together in a row, and came back. Credit their hitters on the comeback. I give a lot of credit to our guys for stopping the comeback, persevering through that, and then answering back.”

The win moves the Bulldogs to 6-7. Johnson feels like they could easily be 10-3 on the year, but missing last year because of the pandemic presented some early issues.

“We’re hitting a lot better than I thought we were going to hit, but we’ve had some troubles with errors, that really just compounded with walks,” Johnson said. “I think everybody in the first couple games were really struggling.

“We haven’t seen these guys in two years. We had to get our guys back at the speed. We had to get their heads back in the game. That’s just the way the ball has rolled so far, but we could definitely go on a run here down the stretch.”

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