Walters powers Springfield over McDonald
By Greg Gulas
The Springfield baseball team was well aware that neither top-seeded West Branch in Division II nor Canton Central Catholic in Division III were able to advance to next week’s district baseball tournament at Bob Cene Park in Struthers.
But the Tigers avoided the upset bug thanks to a six-run first inning during in a sectional final on Friday.
Brandon Walters scattered two hits, struck out eight and added a solo home run to help lead the Tigers (16-3) to a 10-0 six-inning victory over the Blue Devils (6-9).
Chris Thompson added two hits, including a double, scoring twice while Mitchell Seymour also had two hits and an RBI and scoring a run to pace Springfield.
“When you take a 6-0 lead in the opening inning, especially during tournament play, it sure does take the pressure off of you when you are pitching,” Walters said. “This is a nice win because it got us started off on the right foot in tournament play. We have a lot to do and can still get better, but this was definitely a good start for us tonight.”
The Tigers beat McDonald twice during the regular season (10-2 and 9-2) and will now meet the winner of today’s game between No. 4 Western Reserve and No. 5 Jackson-Milton — teams they also faced twice during the season — in the district’s opening round.
“It’s important to know your opponent and their tendencies, but they also know you as well so you have to be ready to go,” Walters said.
The Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate in their half of the first inning, rapping out seven of their 11 hits for the early 6-0 advantage.
“After that big first inning, the pressure was definitely on them,” Springfield head coach Terry Dobson said. “We put them behind the eight ball and forced them to play catch-up. Brandon’s breaking stuff was working and that was nice to see. He was rushing before, but worked slower today and that was the key. He’s become a pitcher and not just a thrower.”
Shane Eynon’s run-scoring single in the second inning made it 7-0, the Tigers increasing their lead to 8-0 after three frames when John Slike crossed the plate.
Thompson reached base safely three times was looking a a particular pitch.
“I kept thinking fastball because most of the pitches that I saw were fastballs,” Thompson said. “We got off to a good start, but that was because it was a solid, overall effort by everyone.”
Walters’ home run leading off the sixth inning made it 9-0 and Eynon’s groundout plated Thompson to make it 10-0.
“Their big first inning cost us the game. It was quite simple in that we didn’t make plays, they did and just took the steam out of us,” Blue Devils head coach Bill Ifft said. “They are a good team and always aggressive at the plate.”
Ifft lauded the efforts of his starting pitcher, Zach Wolf.
“Zach did an excellent job on the mound for us, despite the score,” he said. “It just didn’t show tonight on the scoreboard.”
The Tigers will meet the JM-Western Reserve winner Thursday in Struthers.