GREENFORD-In order to make it to their first-place conference showdown with Springfield next week, the South Range baseball team first needs to shake off some rust after heavy rains sidleined the Raiders for a week.
Friday night against East Palestine was a good start.
After a sloppy start, South Range roared back to take care of the Bulldogs 11-5 at South Range High School.
The Raiders improve to 12-3 overall and 7-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. East Palestine drops to 5-4 overall and 4-3 in he ITCL upper tier. If South Range can sweep a doubleheader with Southern today, the Raiders and Tigers will enter their two-game series starting Monday with matching undefeated league records.
"It (the Springfield matchup) has been on our minds since the beginning of the season," South Range catcher Ryan Miller said. "It's been hard not to look past some games along the way. (Today) we have two games to take care of then we have to get ready for Monday."
During the past week off, South Range coach Jim Hanek said it was hard not to look ahead as his team practiced inside
"It's really come to the forefront this week, especially when you have no games to play," Hanek said. "You have to be real careful to stay in the moment."
Miller went 3 for 3 with a triple, two singles and two RBIs Friday as the Raiders scored six runs in the bottom of the first and 10 unanwered to fight off an early 3-0 deficit.
"We were stuck in the gym all week and came out a little shaky tonight," South Range catcher Ryan Miller said. "After the first couple of innings I think we were able to get it back."
The Bulldogs took advantage of three walks and a hit batter by South Range starter Tyler Rothbauer to push across their three runs in the top of the first. it could have been worse, but Rothbauer got a pair of groundouts to squeeze out of a bases-loaded one-out jam. The Bulldogs left 11 runners on base for the game.
"We left way too many guys out there tonight," East Palestine coach Eric Barone said. "We didn't take advantage of our opportunities and they cashed in on theirs."
Down three, the Raiders didn't blink in their half of the first, sending 11 men to the plate and scoring six times. Bill Goodall provided the spark with a two-run triple, while the Raiders drew three walks and took advantage of three East Palestine errors.
"Our whole lineup one through nine is solid," Miller said. "We came up knowing we were in a hole and that we had to chip away, nobody tried to do to much and evryone came through."
Miller helped keep the Raiders a comfortable distance ahead with an RBI triple in the third to make it 8-3 and an RBI single in the fifth to make it 11-5.
"East Palestine shellshocked us early," Hanek said. "But we knew there was plenty of game left. Once we pushed some runs across the tension really eased."
In preperation for the two Springfield games, Hanek had his two ace pitchers-Greg Dunham and Tyler Baird-work a scoreless inning apiece late in the game. He said both should be ready to go despite a light week.
"We had them both throw bullpen sessions in the gym on Wednesday and wanted to get them some game action tonight," Hanek said. "They both looked pretty sharp and should be ready."
East Palestine hosts East Liverpool today.
SR-Tyler Rothbauer, wp, (4IP, 5BB, 1K), Turner Curry (1IP, 2BB, 1K), Greg Dunham (1IP, 0BB, 0K), Tyler Baird (1IP, 0BB, 0K) and Ryan Miller.
EP-Justin Fristik, lp, (3IP, 3BB, 3K), Andy Ellis (3IP, 2BB, 1K) and Alec Dumbauld.