After his team’s season opener March 23 vs. Uniontown Lake, Cuyahoga Falls baseball coach Scott Koenig had to wonder if his team was snakebitten.
Before the first pitch of the game, Falls starting third baseman Tyler Jellison took a line drive to the mouth, knocking his teeth out. That forced some lineup changes for Falls, but it got worse as senior shortstop Alex Abernathy separated his shoulder while diving for a ball in the fifth inning.
"I lost the starting left side of my infield in the first five innings," Koenig said.
This was on top of the absences due to spring break.
The injuries set the tone for week for Falls. The Black Tigers lost 11-0 to Lake in six innings March 23 at Water Works Park. Falls then travelled to Sprenger Stadium in Avon Tuesday to take on St. Edward, where it lost 10-0 in six innings.
On Wednesday, Falls travelled to Akron Springfield in a pushed up game on the schedule. The Black Tigers found their offense late, but a rally fell short as Falls lost 6-4 to drop to 0-3 on the season.
After so much optimism in the preseason, Koenig admitted it was a tough pill to swallow.
"I’m down to like 12 players," Koenig said. "Everybody is pressing, because we have a lot of players out of position. That first game was 2-0 going into the fourth inning. We’re struggling right now."
With all the lineup switching against Lake, junior Jason DiNapoli was called to be an emergency starter for Falls. DiNapolia went 3 2-3 innings, giving up only two runs.
"He actually did very well, given the circumstances," Koenig said
Falls’ offense, however, sputtered out of the gate. The Black Tigers got only two hits in the game as catcher Tristan Roberts and junior Ethan Tompkins each had one single.
Koenig noted Falls managed to load the bases in the first and second inning, but came away with no runs. He also noted Blue Streaks pitching recorded 14 of the game’s 18 outs via the strikeout.
After Abernathy’s injury, Lake put up four runs in the fifth inning and two in the sixth to invoke the 10-run mercy rule.
In frigid conditions at Sprenger Stadium Tuesday, Konieg noted Falls’ bats were just as cold. Junior Alex Valente got the Black Tigers’ lone hit in the top of the sixth inning.
"We just couldn’t muster up any hits," Koenig said. "When you commit errors against a team like that, they will make you pay."
Falls committed five errors on the day, which helped contribute to a six-run second inning for the Eagle.
Valente (0-1) lasted only 1.2 innings on the mound, as the Eagles pounded him early.
Koenig noted one bright spot in the game was the performance of pitcher Kyle Deremer, who allowed just one run in three innings pitched with four strikeouts.
Heading into the game vs. Springfield Wednesday, Koenig said he had hoped for a win, but the Black Tigers came out flat.
As a result, Falls trailed 6-1 heading into the top of the seventh inning. Falls’ lone run prior to the seventh came in the top of the fifth when Roberts doubled and Braunavan Arsenault hit an RBI single.
"The top of the seventh was the first sign of life this season," Koenig said.
An RBI single from Deremer and a two-run single from DiNapoli put the tying runs aboard for Falls, but the Black Tigers could get not closer.
Jake Stiffler (0-1) took the loss for Falls, allowing five runs in 4.2 innings of work.
Falls is set to host Akron Ellet at noon Saturday at Water Works Park. The Black Tigers open Suburban League National Conference play Monday at Twinsburg at 4:30 p.m.
"We’re going to get competitive again once we get to the league games," Koenig said. "We’ll have some bodies back."
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_RPC