EAST PALESTINE-East Palestine baseball coach Eric Barone and his staff entered their first season determined to bring a winning approach back to the program. Time will tell if it pays off, but the early returns have been positive.
The Bulldogs pounded the ball early and often Wednesday against Lisbon, building up an 11-run lead on their way to a 13-7 win at the East Palestine City Park.
It was the Inter-Tri County League upper tier opener for both teams. East Palestine moves to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the conference. Lisbon drops to 1-1 and 0-1 ITCL.
"We've been working hard lifting weights and hitting since November," East Palestine senior Drew Wilson said. "We just got a new batting cage at the school and have been in there hitting right after school. I think it's helped a lot."
After scoring 15 runs against Wellsville Tuesday night, the Bulldogs wasted no time getting down to business against Lisbon, scoring nine runs in the first inning while sending 14 batters to the plate.
"As a team we did a good job of going up to the plate with a plan," Wilson said. "We were all ready to hit the ball and put some good swings in."
With the bases loaded and one out, Wilson got the scoring underway with a two-run single. After an Ian Elliot walk, Chris Raley and Jaret Spratt followed with RBI singles to chase Lisbon starter Eric Walker. David Toot came in for the Blue Devils and gave up back-to-back RBI singles to Ricky Telischak and Josh Fristik to complete the damage.
"We struggled early getting ahead of hitters," Lisbon coach Doug Andric said. "You can't fall behind a good hitting team like East Palestine. They got some good pitches to hit and pounded us."
Wilson upped the lead to 11-0 in the third with a two-run double and finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs. Josh Fristik chipped in two doubles and an RBI, while Ricky Telischak had three singles, an RBI and three runs scored for the Bulldogs. Barone-who was previously an assistant at Canfield and Columbiana-has tried to implement an improvement in the Bulldogs conditioning and practice habits. He has liked what he's seen thus far.
"The biggest thing was strength," Barone said. "I noticed our football team wasn't as strong as other teams and I thought we should really emphasize that for baseball. At other places I've coached we've always had a weight program and it seems to work."
East Palestine starter Jaret Spratt cruised through he first three innings, but the Blue Devils did not pack it in. Lisbon took advantage of two Bulldog errors to bat around and score five runs in the third. Lisbon added two more in the fifth to close within six. Toot had two single and two RBIs for the Blue Devils, while Jordan Everett had two single and an RBI and Jagr Groubert had a two-run single.
Ricky Telischak came on for the the Bulldogs and pitched the last two innings without incident.
The Bulldogs and Blue Devils will conclude their season series today at Lisbon. While Barone conceded that Springfield and South Range would be the odds-on favorites in the upper tier, he was not shy about his team's chances to make some noise.
"I think we can be in the mix and win some games this year," Barone said. "A big part of it for our guys was learning how to prepare themselves and learning how to play the game. I don't see any reason why we can't be in the upper half of the league."
2000 East Palestine graduate Aaron Walker, who pitched collegiately at Georgia Tech and was a Tampa Bay Devil Rays draft pick, is in his first season as the Bulldogs pitching coach.
"Aaron and I coached together at Columbiana and he's one of the best in the business," Barone said. "He brings a lot of experience to the table. Our kids have no idea how valuable he is."
EP-Jaret Spratt, wp, (5IP, 2ER, 1BB 3K), Ricky Telischak (2IP, 0BB, 1K) and Alec Dumbauld.
LI-Eric Walker, lp, (1/3 IP 5ER, 2BB, 0K), David Toot (4 2/3 5ER, 2BB, 2K), Marcus Nenincka (1IP, 0BB, 1K) and Jagr Groubert.