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Champion rallies from nine down to top Dukes

CHAMPION — Coming back from a nine-run deficit in the bottom of the sixth inning to win was seemingly a commendable accomplishment for the Champion Golden Flashes baseball team.

However, Flashes’ coach Rick Yauger felt they never should have been in that position to begin with after they rallied to beat Marlington 10-9 at home on Saturday afternoon.

“If you play good baseball the whole game, you don’t have to do this,” Yauger said. “We didn’t play well early. We played well when we had to. Early on, we were getting ourselves out. We didn’t have good at-bats. Two sophomores came in and pitched. They gave us an opportunity to come back and win this game.”

Champion junior Collin Brainard started the game and walked the bases loaded. Carson Fife and Hunter Haines, a pair of left-handed junior pitchers, did enough in relief to keep Champion (8-6, 5-1) in the ballgame.

Three runs crossed the plate for the Dukes in the top of the first. Two more in the second made it 5-0. Champion looked like it would get out of the top of the fourth with the same score, but Marlington junior Josh Dezenzo crushed a two-out, two-run double up the middle to make it 7-0. The Dukes (a D-II school in Alliance) added two more in the top of the fifth for the 9-0 advantage.

The Champion bats came alive in the bottom of the sixth. Senior Aaron Ellsworth led off with a single. Ellsworth was a pitcher before a shoulder injury moved him over to second base. The shoulder injury didn’t slow him down on the base paths as Brainard got some redemption by driving in Ellsworth with an RBI double.

Junior Jack O’Shaughnessy drove in senior Zachary Bickel with a single to left. Bickel is a dangerous weapon for Champion. When it’s his turn to pitch, opposing batters can expect to see the ball coming from all angles. Bickel wears a six-fingered glove and switches it to either hand as he is both a left, and right-handed pitcher.

Suddenly, the score was 9-5. Ellsworth got another at-bat in the sixth and drove in sophomore Joseph Fell. Fell used a head-first dive, across home plate, to make it 9-6 heading to the seventh.

“I am proud of the way they came back,” Yauger said. “All of these kids were part of the victory. We took advantage of some opportunities that we had. Our guys refocused at the plate. We made some adjustments. They slowed down. They started to take some more pitches, and see the baseball more.”

Fell could see the ball well enough to tie up the score 9-9 by driving in two in the seventh. Then, O’Shaughnessy came to the plate and completed the comeback with a two-out, game-winning hit.

“I had a feeling I could do it,” O’Shaughnessy said. “When I was in the dugout, I knew I was going to get a chance. We were positive in the dugout. We’ve had games where we’ve struggled early on. We felt like we could come back. We’ve gotta go get it, and get some more wins next week.”

The Flashes want to continue their winning ways with back-to-back games against Crestview on Monday and Tuesday with first-place in the Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference, Gray Tier, on the line.

“They are two very important games,” Yauger said. “In my opinion, they’ll probably determine who wins the league. They’re 4-0 in the league. Crestview is a good baseball team. We can’t give them extra outs. We have to play seven sound innings to go beat Crestview.”

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