STOW – Like most Northeast Ohio baseball teams, the primary adversary for Stow-Munroe Falls during the past week wasn’t on the field, but coming from the sky to soak the fields.
With all the rain, Bulldogs coach Aaron DeBord noted his team was "lucky" to get a game in Saturday ahead of its postseason start. Stow defeated Holy Name 10-0 in five inning at Kent State University as part of the David Starkey Classic.
"We got some good work in that game," DeBord said. "The last three days of practice were very good for us."
Thus, when its fields finally dried out Wednesday, Stow was ready for its Division I sectional playoff game against Bedford. The Bearcats came into the contest at 11-5 and, according to coach Levi Crozier, wanted to push the Bulldogs despite being the lower seed.
In one awful inning, however, any hope of the Bearcats testing the Bulldogs evaporated.
Stow scored 14 runs in the bottom of the first inning and cruised to a 17-2 win over the Bearcats Wednesday at Stow.
With the win, Stow improved to 11-12-1 and advanced to the Division I sectional final Thursday at Walsh Jesuit, which is the top seed in the Division I Hudson district.
DeBord said the game worked out exactly as he hoped, as he was able to save his top pitchers for the Walsh game.
"We talked a lot about wanting to go with [five different pitchers] in this game," DeBord said. "We were lucky to be able to take care of business in the that first inning. Now we’ll be able to use Mark [Wilbur] and Pat [Ciccantelli] how we like to tomorrow."
Crozier said the nightmare of an inning didn’t represent how the Bearcats can play.
"It starts before you take the field," Crozier said. "Today, we were outmanned, but we thought we would be able to show them something. That first inning is not who we are "
Wilbur, Ciccantelli, Joey Bystricky, Joe Toth and Aiden Vober combined to allow just three Bearcat hits, all of which came off the bat of Bedford catcher Collin Kennedy. The pitching quintet allowed two walks and one hit batter while striking out eight Bearcats.
Bedford actually loaded the bases in the top of the first inning, as Marquise Moore walked, Kennedy singled and pitcher Seth Freeman reached on a fielder’s choice and an error. However, Moore was picked off at third base to end the inning.
Then the nightmare began for the Bearcats.
Three errors and seven walks by Bedford pitching allowed Stow to send 18 batters to the plate in the first inning.
Stow also had some big hits as second baseman Branden Beck hit a two-run triple, Vober hit an RBI single and designated hitter Adam Folk this a three-run triple off Freeman.
"We put some good swings on the ball, they made some mistakes, and we took advantage of it," DeBrod said. "Our guys had a good approach at the plate."
Freeman came into the game with a record of 7-1, but after Beck’s triple, he seemed to lose the strike zone. He lasted just two-thirds of an inning, giving up 10 unearned runs.
"That’s how it goes," Crozier said. "It was just a domino effect for Seth."
Reliever Jamir Sullivan didn’t fare much better, as he gave up an a RBI single to Stow catcher Riley Cesnak and a two-run double to right fielder Chris Sobey. When the dust settled, Stow had a 14-0 lead after one inning.
Sullivan and reliever Al Stevens were able to keep the Bulldogs off the board in the second and third inning. Meanwhile, Bedford got on the scoreboard when Kennedy singled and a scored on a sacrifice fly from third baseman Jacob Weingart in the top of the fourth inning.
DeBord emptied his bench in the fourth inning, but the reserve Bulldogs added three more runs. An RBI single from freshman Brayden Murphy, an RBI groundout from first baseman Colin Harris and an RBI single from sophomore Connor McCartney made it 17-1 Stow.
Bedford’s Ryan Cloud manufactured a run in the top of the fifth inning. After reaching base due to catcher’s interference, Cloud stole two bases and scored on an RBI groundout by Moore, but that was it for the Bearcats.
DeBord said he knew Walsh would be a stern test for his team. The winner of the contest will advance to the Division I district semifinal at Hudson Tuesday at 4 p.m.
"Walsh is a very good team. They are very well coached by coach [Chris] Kaczmar," DeBord said. "We look forward to the challenge. We think if we can play our game, we’ll have a chance to win."
In addition to the postseason, Stow was set to play its final Suburban League National Conference game at Nordonia Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Reporter Michael Leonard can be reached at 330-541-9442, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MLeonard_GHO