Fielding a team with three freshmen and two sophomores in the lineup, the Norwalk baseball team took an 8-5 lead into the top of the seventh inning of Tuesday’s back-and-forth SBC Lake Division game vs. Bellevue.
After a fielding error gave the Redmen two runners on base with one out, Norwalk pitcher Nolan Flowers got Kolton Ray to hit into a game-ending double play to seal an 8-7 win. The Truckers improved to 5-2 overall (1-0 Lake) while the Redmen fell to 3-2 (1-1).
Flowers had hit Philip Putnam to start the seventh. After a strikeout of Trey Ruhlman, Bellevue’s Ethan Prenatt then doubled in Putnam for an 8-7 deficit. Garrett Vickery’s ground ball to short then was misplayed, allowing Prenatt to score and bring the Redmen to within one — and put the winning run on base.
But immediately after the fielding error, Garrett Obringer made a nice play to start the game-ending double play to wrap up the win.
“That is an easy spot to let things get away from you, but these freshmen have been coached really well by the Norwalk Naturals (travel team) growing up with Greg Obringer and those guys,” Norwalk coach Wes Douglas said of the nervous finish. “They are beyond freshmen in baseball, and sometimes they are more relaxed than some of our upperclassmen.”
It was a 2-2 game through three innings, but then the Truckers plated three runs in the bottom of the fourth to take a 5-2 lead. Sophomore Nate Adelman walked with two outs, then Garrett Obringer singled to left.
Freshman Ian Minor then delivered the big hit of the inning, a line drive double to centerfield to score Adelman, while Obringer scored on the relay throw to put the Truckers up 4-2. Luke Weaver then singled to left, and Minor was able to score on an errant throw back to the infield for the third run of the inning.
Bellevue got a run back in the fifth, as Ruhlman doubled in Putnam off Norwalk starter Thomas Gfell.
In the top of the sixth, Ray and Jacob Montgomery had back-to-back singles for the Redmen — and Dalton Hay delivered a two-out single to right that scored them both to tie the game at 5-5.
Norwalk then went ahead for good in the bottom of the sixth. Sam Battles and Adelman both reached on infield errors, which allowed Garrett Obringer to sacrifice bunt both runners into scoring position with one out.
Minor walked to load the bases, and Weaver grounded out to second, which allowed Battles to come home for a 6-5 lead. Adelman made it 7-5 when he scored on a passed ball, then freshman Eli Obringer capped the inning with a single up the middle to score Minor and put the Truckers up 8-5.
Eli Obringer was 3 for 4 with two RBIs, while Weaver and Minor were both 2 for 3 with a pair of RBIs as well. Leighton Battles, the lone senior on the team, drove in a run as well for the Truckers.
Gfell went six innings for Norwalk, allowing five earned runs on 12 hits with six strikeouts and no walks. Flowers finished with two runs allowed (one earned) on one hit with a strikeout.
“Really proud of our guys for winning a back and forth game against a good team,” Douglas said. “We had not beat them in several years. I think we can compete with anyone on our schedule, and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves.
“We may not win them all, but I think we’re going to be competing in all of them,” he added. “We have Clyde here (today) and Nolan can come back to start. We feel pretty good. We know there are a lot of good teams left on our schedule, but today is a good win.”
For the Redmen, Putnam was 3 for 3 with an RBI and two runs scored. Ruhlman and Hay each had two hits and two RBIs. Prenatt started for Bellevue and allowed two earned runs on three hits with four strikeouts and five walks in 2 1/3 innings.
Vickery went the final 3 2/3 innings, allowing six runs (three earned) on six hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
“It was an exciting game to be a part of,” Bellevue coach Andy Dennings said. “I’m proud of our kids for how they responded, and Norwalk’s kid did as well. They had some big two-out hits where we could have gotten out of some innings, but we just couldn’t get that third out so give them credit. Unfortunately they were just one run better than us today.”
The Redmen have been the top program in the defunct Northern Ohio League and the SBC Lake Division over the past five-plus years. While he knows his team is more inexperienced than usual, Dennings is confident his team will again be in the chase all season.
“We stressed to the kids the Lake is going to be pretty wide open,” Denning said. “The big thing is we can’t let one game like today turn into two or three. We didn’t win the game, but we feel pretty good about what we did out here today.
“We’re doing some good things and will be alright,” he added. “We’re a bit more of an inexperienced team than we’ve had in recent years, but that’s how a lot of the Lake teams are right now. I think we’ll be fine.”
Bellevue 101 012 2 — 7 13 2
Norwalk 011 303 x — 8 9 2
WP: Flowers; LP: Vickery
2B: (B) Prenatt, Ruhlman, Putnam; (N) Minor