Edgewood Warriors vs Champion Flashes
Wilder Field (Waddel Park)
McRoberts Rd. SE
THANK YOU TO THE STAR BEACON FOR YOUR OUTSTANDING COVERAGE!
By: Brendan Freeney
NILES — Edgewood’s Jacob Zappitelli walked into the batter’s box in bottom of the sixth inning during Monday’s Division III district semifinal at Niles and dug in.
His teammates had just tied the game at 3-3. Two innings earlier, Edgewood was still searching for its first hit of the night while facing a 3-0 deficit.
With the bases loaded in the tied sixth inning, Zappitelli wasted no time.
He struck the first pitch he saw, a high-and-away fastball, to right-center field. As the ball dropped, Zappitelli threw his right fist into the air and turned around to watch Garret Webster and Ethan Stalter cross home plate to give Edgewood its first lead of the ball game.
The Warriors added another run in the frame and Alec Katon recorded a 1-2-3 seventh as Edgewood defeated Grand Valley 6-3.
“Our moment came and this guy here,” Edgewood coach Sean Freeman said, pointing to Zappitelli, “We couldn’t draw it up any better for him. He’s been our man all year. We get going when he gets going and it set up perfectly for him.”
The Warriors (14-8) trailed 3-1 before their five-run sixth inning and the prospect of a comeback looked unlikely at best.
GV pitcher Logan Newell, a senior southpaw, was nearly unhittable through the first five innings. He did not allow his first base runner until he had two outs in the fourth and the only run to score on him, prior to the sixth, was unearned.
Newell struck out six of the first eight batters he faced in the game and notched his 10th to begin the bottom of the sixth.
“We just had to keep battling,” said Zappitelli, who is an Ohio Bruisers teammate of Newell’s in summer. “Logan is an amazing pitcher. … Over the summer, most nights he was our No. 1 and he’s obviously a No. 1 on a high school team, but we kept battling all game and eventually we got some runners on and it just takes one pitch to make it happen.”
Frank Sloan started the rally in the sixth with a one-out single to right field, his second hit of the game. Katon followed with a single to third base and Newell began to run out of gas.
The lefty walked Edgewood’s next three batters to tie the game at three. He was removed after the last base-on-balls with 5.1 innings of work under his belt.
Derek Jackson struck out the first batter he faced, but Zappitelli jumped on the next pitch and the rest is history.
“(Logan’s) first five innings were outstanding,” GV coach Matt Brumit said. “If we make a play and don’t throw it away (in the fifth), it’s 3-0 heading into that (sixth) inning. Sometimes as a pitcher, you try to do too much, instead of letting your
defense work. Even if they’re hittable pitches, you gotta give the guys a chance to make a play. Logan’s been our ace for four years, so it’s going to be tough without him.”
Sloan, Newell’s counterpart on the mound, ran into his fair share of trouble at various points throughout the game, but always found a way to limit the damage — or even escape unharmed.
He threw back-to-back walks in the first inning to load the bases with two outs, but then forced a pop-up to second base. After striking out the side in the second, the right-hander allowed a one-out, RBI single in the third.
Sloan struck out the next two batters, though, and the deficit stayed at one. The Mustangs (15-7) plated two runs in the fifth and had another runner on base with only one out, but Sloan again struck out the next two Warriors to end the inning.
He recorded 12 strikeouts in six innings of work, allowing three runs — two earned — on seven hits.
Sloan also led his team at the plate with two hits and a run.
“Frank battled,” Freeman said. “Getting close to 100 pitches and he didn’t let the score bother him. He just kept doing what he had to do to give us a chance. … That was probably the toughest game Frank has had this year with a lot of people on, but a lot of credit to him just not to break.”
Despite trailing by two runs and only having five outs to work with at a time when Edgewood only had two hits in the entire game, Freeman said his players showed no signs of fear.
“It’s a game of 21 outs and that’s our identity that we’ve worked on all year,” Freeman said. “We’re going to play for seven innings and these guys haven’t wavered from that — that’s their identity. These guys don’t quit for 21 outs. I really give my hats off to Grand Valley.”
The Mustangs were gunning for a second-straight district title, but, according to Brumit, the same problems that plagued the team throughout the regular season stood in their way.
“We had a lot of losses like that,” Brumit said. “I think we beat a lot of teams we were supposed to beat and I think we gave away four wins this year in the sixth or seventh inning. As a coach, that’s something I gotta reflect on and kind of go from there next season.”
The Warriors will take on Champion in a Division III district title game on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Wilder Field in Niles.