GREENFORD-The Columbiana baseball team played better than it's winless record would indicate for much of Tuesday's game against South Range. Unfortunately for the Clippers, the Raiders were a couple of steps ahead in every category.
Senior Dan Macinga had two singles and two RBIs along with several defensive gems at first base, while junior Tyler Baird pitched a complete game three-hitter, striking out 11, as the Raiders slowly wore down the Clippers, 6-0, at South Range High School.
South Range improves to 9-2 overall and 4-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. Columbiana falls to 0-8 overall and 0-4 in the ITCL upper tier.
"Columbiana played us hard tonight and we were ready for the challenge," Macinga said. "Pitching, defense and timely hits were all there for us all night."
South Range had a tough time breaking through against Columbiana freshman pitcher Mitch Davidson, who was making his first varsity start. The righthander spotted his fastball well and kept the Raiders in check early with an effective changeup. He would pitch a six innings, striking out four, walking one and yielding only three earned runs.
"Davidson did a fine job," South Range coach Jim Hanek said. "He went to his changeup a lot with two strikes and it had some nice sinking action on it which kept us off balance."
Macinga got the Raiders first hit of the game in the third inning, driving home Zach Thorpe with a soft single to center to make it 1-0. He made it 3-0 in the fourth with an infield single that drove home a hustling Thorpe who scored all the way from second base.
His impact, however, was most strongly felt on defense. Macinga made four full length stretches at first base to pick short throws. On each one his left leg seemed extended out as far as humanly possible. The slick glove-work, combined with with a diving catch in right field by A.J. Melnick, helped keep the basepaths clear of Clippers most of the night.
"I've been working on that stretch since my freshman year," Macinga said. "I've tried to keep staying flexible. We also do a lot of scooping drills which helps."
"I can't imagine how many runs he (Macinga) has saved us at first base," Hanek said. "It's a big luxury to have him there."
Even without the defensive support, it would have been tough for the Clippers to score on Baird, who was locked in most of the night.
"I had great command of my fastball, curve and changeup," Baird said. "I was able to work ahead most of the night. It helps knowing I have a good defense behind me."
"Tyler was able to hit both the inside and outside corner with his fastball, which set the tone for the night," Hanek said.
The only Columbiana threat came in the third inning when the game was still scoreless. The Clippers loaded the bases with two outs, but Baird got Devin Rice to ground out to second. Columbiana would not get another hit the rest of the night.
"You won't get many opportunities with a guy (Baird) like that on the mound," Columbiana coach Brian Dickens said. "We had to cash in on that one."
Bill Goodall had an RBI single in the fifth and Zach Thorpe had an RBI triple in the sixth to provide plenty of cushion.
"Davidsion was very good for most of the night," Macinga said. "He started slowing down his arm a little bit late in the game and we were able to get some pitches in our zone."
The two teams meet again today at Firestone Park in Columbiana.
Davidson also starred at quarterback for the Clippers last fall. Dickens decided to give him a varsity start after an impressive jayvee showing against Boardman last week.
"He threw a one-hitter against them and looked very strong," Dickens said. "I think we found somebody that can help us the rest of the year."
Columbiana has now faced both South Range and Springfield, which are tied at the top of the conference.
"What's so impressive about both of them is the amount of plays they make on defense," Dickens said. "At the high school level that is huge. Not only to the make great plays, they also make all the routine ones."
SR-Tyler Baird, wp, (7IP, 11K, 1BB) and Ryan Miller
CO-Mitch Davidson, lp, (7IP, 4K, 1BB) and Keenan Green.