Heading into its final full week of the regular season, Stow-Munroe Falls baseball knew any hope of pressing for the Suburban League National Conference title was over.
There are other big motivations for the Bulldogs, however. Perhaps none is bigger than getting a win over their neighbors to the north.
Resuming a suspended game Monday at home vs. arch rival Hudson, the Bulldogs played one of their best games of the season to claim a 5-1 win. Stow then avoided any hangover from the win, as it scored a 4-3 win at Brecksville-Broadview Heights Tuesday.
Stow then hosted its Senior Night Wednesday against Akron Firestone, but lost 6-2.
Stow’s record moved to 9-12-1 overall and 6-7 in the National Conference with one game remaining.
DeBord couldn’t help but smile when reflecting on the Hudson game.
"It was a great win for us," DeBord said. "We were very confident that we able the going to win that game. We wanted to be the aggressor in that contest."
The game was resumed after one inning with Stow leading 1-0. That proved to be all that Bulldog starter Mark Wilbur needed, as the sophomore right-handled pitched a complete-game gem.
"Mark put us on his back. He worked out of a couple of jams," DeBord said. "It’s a much needed win that, hopefully, will put us on track for a while."
In his seven innings of work, Wilbur (4-0) allowed one earned run off six hits and three walks with four strikeouts. DeBord said Wilbur has seized the role of Stow’s ace.
"He’s 37 innings into the season with a 1.19 earned-run average," DeBord said. "He’s been dominant for us this year. He throws multiple pitcher for strikes. He’s got an out pitch [a changeup] that he can use whenever he needs to get out of a jam.""
By contrast, Stow chased Hudson starter Sylvan Wiley out of the game after just 3.2 innings.
Up 1-0 after one, Stow doubled its advantage when designated hitter Caleb Shorter tripled in the second inning and came home on a throwing error.
In the third innings, Aiden Vober walked,. Patrick Cicantelli doubled and junior Zac Gandee hit a two-run single to make it 3-0.
An RBI single from Brandon Beck in the fifth inning completed the scoring for Stow.
DeBord said Stow came out a bit flat at Brecksville.
"We started really slow," DeBord said. "We weren’t executing at all. We were down 2-0 after three, but it could have been a lot worse."
Stow was able to tie the game in the top of the fourth. Wilbur and Poston walked, followed by an RBI double from Vober. After Adam Folk walked, Poston was able to score on a passed ball to make it 2-2.
Stow stayed in the game thanks to relief pitcher Joe Toth (1-4), who pitched 3.2 innings of scoreless ball, allowing two hits and no walks with six strikeouts.
"He’s pitched a lot better than his record indicates," DeBord said. "He finally got his first win."
DeBord said Stow’s offense then slumbered until a weird seventh inning. Zach Meyerson drew a lead-off walk and Colin Harris was hit by a pitch. After a sacrifice bunt and lineup issue, Toth came through with a two-run single to make it 4-3 and then slammed the door in the bottom of the seventh.
"It was a fun game," DeBord said. "It was really fun to see the kids battle through adversity and get the win."
Playing all of his senior class vs. Firestone, DeBord said. starting pitch Joey Bystricky deserved better than taking the loss. Bystricky pitched six innings, giving up one earned run with six strikeouts.
"Joey pitched a great game. We just didn’t play defense behind him at all."
DeBord also said the Bulldogs struggled against Falcons ace Joe Durkee.
"He pitched a great game. He knew what he could do," DeBord said. "We just couldn’t get hits to fall."
An RBI single from Chris Sobey and an RBI double from Meyerson accounted for all of Stow’s offense."
"Give Firestone a lot of credit," DeBord said. "They played a very good game."
Stow’s final National Conference game vs. Nordonia Thursday was rained out and will be made up sometime next week. The Bulldogs were set to face Holy Name as part of the Starkey Classic Saturday at Kent State University.
The Bulldogs will host Green Monday 4:30 p.m. before opening its postseason.
Given the No. 8 seed in the Division I Hudson district tournament, Stow will open the playoffs by hosting ninth-seeded Bedford Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. If victorious, Stow would advance to face top-seeded Walsh Jesuit Thursday at 5 p.m. at Walsh.
"I’d love to have a shot at [Walsh]," DeBord said "it would be the first time we’ve played them since we beat them in the district final."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, email@example.com or @MLeonard_GHO