By Ron Nunnari
CLAYTON – Northmont rallied with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday to post a 4-3 victory over Fairborn in the opening game of the 2016 baseball season.
Northmont’s Thomas Walsh and Cameron Reaman both reached base by errors and Tyler Liddy hit a RBI single that scored Walsh. Tyler Defibaugh entered the game to pinch run for Liddy. Landon Hill had a bunt single when no one covered first and that loaded the bases. Austin Kossoudji singled to score Reaman and Tanner Lee drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in Defibaugh with the winning run.
“We made a physical error and two mental errors after that and we have got to be able to flush those away late in the game,” said Fairborn coach Josh Patrick. “I didn’t like the way we responded after the one physical error. That’s part of the game. We are going to make physical errors all season. The ones that kind of drive coaches nuts are the ones that come in afterwards, and especially when they are mental errors. Northmont is a great team. Never once did they go into the bottom of the seventh thinking that the game was over. That’s just what the great teams do. They make teams get 21 outs and that’s what they made us do, and they owned it.”
Despite the loss, Patrick was pleased with how tough his team played the always-tough Thunderbolts.
“Northmont is always up at the top of its division and it was fitting to play them the first game of the year just because it was a good test to see what kind of team we have,” Patrick added. “Damion Burnette got a big hit for us, but we just couldn’t put them away today.”
Fairborn took a 1-0 lead in the top of the first when Will Coleman led off with a single. After a strikeout a pickoff attempt at first resulted in an error with Coleman advancing to second. Ryan Profitt belted a single through the middle to score Coleman to give the Skyhawks the early lead.
Northmont tied the score in the home half of the first under similar circumstances. Tanner Lee drew a walk and advanced to third on a failed pickoff attempt at first base. Brenden Jewsikow followed with a single down the left field line to score Lee.
The Thunderbolts tried to break the deadlock in the fourth inning. Will Ludington led off double to deep left center field and advanced to third on a ground out. Northmont Coach Chuck Harlow called for a suicide squeeze with Thomas Walsh at bat. Walsh laid down the bunt but Fairborn’s shortstop pounced on the ball and threw to catcher Leighton Mohr who tagged the sliding Ludington out at the plate.
Mohr made another big play at the plate tagging out pinch runner Anthony Ragan in the bottom of the fifth.
The Skyhawks took a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning. Leighton Mohr and Jacob Webb both reached base via Northmont fielding errors with Mohr reaching third on the second error. Dustin Myers laid down a bunt single to load the bases. Matt Peterangelo singled to drive-in Mohr and Webb to give Fairborn a 3-1 lead.
Northmont appeared to be in big trouble, but the never-say-die Thunderbolts came through in the clutch with three runs in the home half of the seventh to secure the win.
“I thought we had two identical teams. They have good pitching on both ends, but we made a couple of errors that cost us runs, but that last inning the kids just came alive,” Harlow said. “Tyler Liddy had a great game. He was so tough behind the plate and at the plate and our pitching was good. I’m happy with the way the kinds grinded that one.”
Austin Kossoudji earned the victory with one inning in relief.
“When they didn’t cover first on Hill’s bunt it’s like they fell apart,” Harlow noted. “It was like they asked themselves, ‘how can we do that?’ We got thrown out on some bunts, especially on that squeeze play, but I thought it was a pretty good bunt. They just made a great play. We got thrown out at the plate on another ball hit to the shortstop. I told Ragan to go because I thought for sure the ball was going to be hard to handle, so that was my fault. They made some great plays and it was just a great baseball game. I can’t remember the last time we opened the season at The Yard. I don’t know who wrote this script today, but it was beautiful.”