AKRON The margin for error against an elite program is slim.
A fact the Alliance Marlington baseball team discovered during a 6-1 loss to defending state champion Tallmadge in a Division II district semifinal game Tuesday at Canal Park in Akron.
"That is a really good team," Dukes head coach Mike Farrell said. "I'm proud of the way we competed. We made some mental errors though and you can't do that against a team like this."
Farrell believes four key plays decided the game.
The first moment was in the top of the first inning when Marlington allowed Seth Gergely to reach first base safely on a sacrifice bunt attempt. Gergely later scored with the lead runner on a single by pitcher Zach Boyd.
"We didn't cover the bunt and it took an out off the board," Farrell said. "It was the difference between going down 2-0 and 1-0 in the first inning."
The Dukes got a run back in the fourth when Zach Dezenzo singled and scored on a fielder’s choice by Brendan Stinson.
Marlington looked poised to have a big inning with runners still on first and third, but the Dukes bounced into a double play to end the inning.
"We missed a sign, swung at the first pitch and grounded into a double play," Farrell said. "You can't do that."
It was one of the rare occasions Marlington got anything going against Boyd. Boyd pitched a complete game and allowed only three hits.
"Zach has been great for us all season," Tallmadge head coach Kenny Linn said. "He has three pitches and he used them all well (Tuesday)."
The double play also been kind to the Blue Devils this season.
"We've done a good job of converting those when we have had the opportunity," Linn said. "I think we have close to 20 on the year. That was huge because if they tie the game, that changes things."
Things got no better in the bottom of the fourth for the Dukes. Marlington allowed four runs with two outs. The big blows were a run-scoring double by Rich Eyre and a two-run triple by Sam Seeker.
"We walked the No. 7 hitter with two outs," Farrell said. "And then the guys behind him delivered. That walk and then the double by Rich Eyre that scored a run were the last couple things that really hurt us."
Marlington falls to 13-11 while Tallmadge improved to 15-11 with the win.
"They were a good team," Linn said. "We scouted them four times. Zach Dezenzo is the real deal. CJ Greiner kept us off balance all day at the plate. I tip my cap to them."
Tallmadge earned a date with Louisville, which defeated Norton 4-3 in nine innings, in the Akron district title game. The contest is scheduled to take place Wednesday at 5 p.m.
"We've seen Norton and Louisville," Linn said. "We know either one of them will give us a great game. We'll be ready."
Reporter Cliff Hickman can be reached at 330-580-8494, firstname.lastname@example.org or @chickmanREP.