COLUMBIANA - Big innings can come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are achieved with plenty of booming hits, while others happen as a result of shakey defense and balls that just happen to find the right place.
The Leetonia Bears benefited from one of the latter on their way to a 10-4 win over Columbiana and their first Inter-Tri County League victory Monday at Firestone Park.
"I'll take any win over Columbiana," Leetonia coach Jimi Green said, "Tonight may not have been the prettiest game, but we have really been struggling lately, and to come out and beat our biggest rival feels pretty good."
The Bears opened up an early 5-0 lead with a bizzare third inning that illustrated the random nature of baseball. With one out and nobody on, Joey Hall reached first base on a fielding error and advanced to second on a throwing error.
After Brandon Dattilio reached on an infield single, Luke Janci and Ian Sevenich walked to give Leetonia a 1-0 lead. With the bases loaded and still only one out, Brady Shepard and Trent Ferry each hit groundballs to the left side of the infield that turned into fielding errors and made the score 3-0 with the bases still loaded. Drew Turney was next up and brought home the fourth run on a soft fielders choice groundout to short. Leetonia made it 5-0 when Shepard scored on a wild pitch.
When the inning was finally over, Leetonia had scored five runs on one hit and four Columbiana errors. Only two balls left the infield - both were fly ball outs by James Shea.
L-Ian Sevenich, wp, (7IP, 3H, 0ER, 10K, 8BB) and Luke Janci.
C-Devin Rice, lp, (4IP, 5H, 1ER, 3K, 4BB), Kane Kyle (3IP, 1H, 1ER, 3K, 1BB) and Ticen Martin.
"Baseball is a strange game," Green said, "We had a couple of little squibbers that their infielders had a hard time handling. I can't really explain what happened, sometimes the breaks just go your way."
"Innings like that will happen," Columbiana coach Scott Knox said. "We could have easily been out of the inning with minimal damage, but we didn't make the routine plays. Devin (Rice) did a nice job at delivering some ground balls, we just couldn't help him out on defense."
With a five-run lead at his disposal, it was hardly smooth sailing for Leetonia starter Ian Sevenich the rest of the way. The Clippers whittled the lead down to 6-4 at one point and had multiple runners on in each of the last three innings. However, each time there was a threat, Sevenich was able to squirm his way free. The lefthander gutted out a complete game to improve his record to 3-2 and also contributed a single and 2 RBI.
"Our catcher (Luke Janci) did a nice job calling the right pitches, and the defense made some good plays to help me get out of some tough spots," Sevenich said.
The Bears broke the game open in the sixth, taking andvantage of two more Clipper fielding errors and getting an RBI single from Joey Hall and an RBI double from Zack Van Giesen. In the bottom of the frame, the Clippers mounted one last threat, loading the bases with one out. However, Bryce Franken hit a liner back to the mound that Sevenich was somehow able to snag and throw to first to double up Drew Cyrus and end the inning.
"That play scared me," Sevenich laughed. "The ball nearly took my head off but I just stuck my glove up and fortunately was able to make a double play. That play summed up the game for us - all of the breaks went our way."
The Bears improve to 5-8 overall and 1-6 in the ITCL lower tier. Columbiana drops to 4-5 overall and 4-4 in the lower tier. The teams will conclude their two-game series at Leetonia on Tuesday.