With every game so important once the league season begins, neither Wauseon or Archbold could afford to let their meeting in NWOAL baseball action slip away Friday.
But it was the Indians who came out on top, in thrilling fashion, by getting four runs in the top of the seventh inning to earn an 8-7 comeback win on the road.
“A sloppy game, but a win is a win,” said Wauseon coach Trent Thomas. “Not happy. But we are happy with the seventh inning. We came out and the kids, that was their senior leadership.”
It appeared as if they would be down by just a run heading into the seventh; however, the Blue Streaks had other plans.
Archbold’s Gabe Petersen led off the bottom of the sixth with a walk, and was moved into scoring position thanks to a bunt by Bryce Williams. Toby Walker then laced a single to put runners on the corners.
A walk to Derek Walker loaded the bases and forced Wauseon’s second pitcher of the night, Brady Kinnersley, out of the game in favor of Brady Rupp, who had earned a win the night before at Evergreen.
Ben Bucklew came through for the Streaks with a two-run single to plate both Gabe Petersen and Toby Walker, extending the Archbold lead to 7-4. A ground out got Rupp and the Indians out of the inning but they were left with just one more at bat.
Perhaps a sign that momentum was about to swing in Wauseon’s favor came when Everett Bueter was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. He would get to second on a pitch in the dirt during an at-bat by Josh Whitcomb, then was moved to third after Whitcomb grounded out.
Kinnersley followed with a one-out walk, then Carter Bzovi’s single to left field scored Bueter to make the margin 7-5.
“He finally stayed within himself and didn’t try to just crush the ball,” said Thomas of Bzovi’s RBI. “Just try to hit a single to left field and stay behind the ball. It kept the line moving.”
After the at-bat by Bzovi, Blue Streak mentor Dick Selgo decided to pull starting pitcher Lathon Babcock in favor of Derek Walker.
“We made some mistakes tonight that we don’t normally make. Our control was not as good as it normally is, and Wauseon took advantage of that,” he said of his team’s pitching in the ninth.
Next in line for the Indians was Rupp, who drew a walk to load the bases. Jac Flory grounded out for the second out; however, it brought home a run to pull the Indians to within one, 7-6.
Undoubtedly, the biggest at-bat of the night was Travis Smith’s – and he came through. The senior ripped a single and a pair of runs scored to give them the lead, their first since the third inning.
“That is a huge swing,” noted Thomas. “He hasn’t been swinging it well the last few nights and he stepped up and did a great job.”
Archbold did get leadoff hitter Seth Mayer on base by way of a walk to begin the next half inning, and he was moved to second with a sacrifice bunt from Babcock.
However, Rupp got the next two batters to strike out to end the game and give him his second win on the mound in as many days.
After finishing off the bottom of the sixth in relief of Kinnersley, Thomas had confidence that Rupp could get the job done, despite having pitched during the game on Thursday.
“He only threw 50-some pitches yesterday (against Evergreen). He had told me he could come back for two or three innings,” said the skipper. “I wasn’t worried about that. He is a tough kid, and he is a senior that wants to win this game. Once we got the lead, I knew I couldn’t take him out.
“Two wins in two days, that’s not a bad two days.”
“You’ve got to give Wauseon credit. They didn’t quit,” said Selgo. “They were down in the last inning, three runs, and came fighting back. We tried to battle back ourselves, we just fell short.”
Wauseon, who led 2-1 after the first, extended their lead to 3-1 in the third with Kinnersley’s RBI-double that plated Whitcomb.
Archbold’s big inning came in the home half of the third where they tallied four runs. They did so with the aid of the top of the order getting on base.
Toby Walker and Derek Walker both walked, and Bucklew’s bunt moved them into scoring position. Toby Walker came home on a passed ball, and after Ian Radabaugh walked Derek Walker came home on a wild pitch to knot the score at three apiece.
“It wasn’t quite as good a game as you would have thought,” said Selgo of the sloppy play. “They made some mistakes and had some control issues, as we did. It was just a matter of who persevered to the end.”
Babcock reached on a Wauseon error to score Radabaugh, then an Isaac Petersen ground out added another run and the Streaks’ lead was 5-3 through three.
The Indians pulled to within one in the fourth as JJ Kauffman led off with a walk and later scored on a suicide squeeze off the bat of Whitcomb.
Smith finished 1 for 4 with three RBIs to pace the Indians on offense. Bzovi was 2 for 4 with a pair of RBIs, and Toby Walker was 2 for 3 with a walk and three runs scored for the Streaks.
Derek Walker took the loss on the mound despite only pitching 2/3 of an inning.
Wauseon then traveled to Ottawa-Glandorf for a doubleheader Saturday, where they were victorious by scores of 5-4 and 4-1. Archbold was at Perrysburg, where they split a doubleheader, falling in game one 7-3 but winning game two 5-4.
Wauseon will host Perrysburg in a non-league game on Tuesday while Archbold hosts Stryker.
Max Householder can be reached at 419-335-2010