pays off vs. Spartans
By steve wilaj
It’s a simple approach, really. But it’s also one that Howland coach Sean Price believes has become a lost art.
“We teach our kids to spread out, choke up on the bat and put good contact on the ball,” he said.
It’s an approach the Tigers practice. On Friday at Howland Township Park, it was evident that practice does, indeed, make perfect – or at least help result in a victory.
Using that simplified approach, the Tigers collected 11 hits and scored three runs with two outs as they defeated Boardman, 4-2, in a Division I sectional final.
“We don’t want to see kids coming out of their shoes trying to hit the ball out of the park with two strikes,” Price said. “We want them to put it in play and make the fielders work. Hitting popups and striking out with two strikes or two outs does us no good.”
Trailing 2-1 in the fifth inning, Kurtis Kuszmaul showed off Howland’s approach by knocking a two-out, two-strike pitch for a single. The hit scored Luciano Romeo, who pinch ran for Ryan Debiec after a leadoff single.
In the sixth inning, after Boardman starting pitcher Eddie Crump retired the first two batters in order, Kyle Watson tripled into the right field corner.
Debiec then gave the Tigers (15-9) the lead with an RBI double.
“I just cleared my head and knew I had to put it in play,” Debiec said. “We just had to put the ball in play because good things happen when you do that.”
A single by John-Mark Weisman gave Howland its two-run advantage. And that was more than enough for starting pitcher Jake Froats.
He went all seven innings, allowing two earned runs on five hits and two walks. Froats struck out only one Spartans batter.
“I wanted to get ground balls and pop-flies and that’s what happened all game,” he said. “I knew as long as we didn’t make errors we’d be all right. And we made some huge plays in the field, like the jump play to end the inning.”
In the top of the third inning and Boardman runners on second and third, Tigers shortstop Watson snared a hard and high line drive that appeared out of reach, saving two runners from scoring.
“He’s got a little bit of a vertical and we’ve been waiting to see it all year,” Price said. “We thought it was a hit. I looked up and all of a sudden the ball disappeared into his glove. He got off the floor real well.”
Tyler Spain led Howland with three hits, while Weisman and Debiec each had two hits.
Crump paced the Spartans with a hit and an RBI. Brian Fryda brought home the other run with an RBI groundout. On the mound, Crump went 5 2/3 innings as he allowed four earned runs.
“We knew he was going to throw strikes and we just had to be patient,” Price said. “He’s a good pitcher and held us in check mostly, but we did a good job of waiting for our pitch and going at it.”
Boardman coach Bob Beam refused an interview request.
The Spartans finished 11-14.