Poland-LaBrae suspended after 4 innings at Eastwood Field

Staff photo / Preston Byers Poland’s Carmine Tukalo awaits a pitch during the Bulldogs’ game against LaBrae at Eastwood Field on Wednesday.

NILES — Mother Nature decided to make yet another appearance Wednesday evening, forcing Poland and LaBrae’s non-conference baseball clash at Eastwood Field to be suspended after four innings in anticipation of a severe storm moving toward Niles.

Following the conclusion of the fourth inning, during which rain began to sprinkle players and fans, the game’s umpires, coaches and Eastwood Field head groundskeeper Noah Bard met near home plate to discuss whether the teams should begin the fifth inning. Ultimately, the game was officially suspended and scheduled to resume today.

LaBrae head coach Ed Anthony said during their conference between innings, Bard correctly predicted the weather was about to take a turn for the worst. Shortly after the game’s suspension, the rain began to fall more heavily and thunder could be heard just minutes afterward.

While neither were too pleased at the sight of another spring storm, both coaches expressed their desire to resume the game and play seven full innings. Wednesday’s suspension is just yet another instance of the weather throwing local sports teams’ schedules out of order, which has become a nuisance for coaches, players and parents.

“It’s been very frustrating. Every coach has gone through this. Practice-wise, you can ask any coach and I don’t think anybody’s going to say they want to be inside a gym or inside a barn or in a parking lot or whatever,” Anthony said. “We need to play. All coaches are going to tell you that, and it’s been very frustrating. I’ve been doing this for many years, and it’s probably the wettest spring I’ve seen. I’ve seen some wet ones, but this has really been bad for all teams.”

Poland head coach Rich Murray, whose Bulldogs appeared to be finding a groove at the plate in the fourth inning, echoed Anthony’s frustrations.

“It’s been tough,” Murray said. “I think the hardest part is just keeping pitchers ready to go. But we’re working hard in the gym and I think we’re playing pretty well. So we’re just waiting for the weather to break, really.”

Poland’s pitching proved to be an issue in the four-inning affair on Wednesday. Starting pitcher Ryan Dilullo, while striking out six and only allowing one hit, loaded the bases in both the first and second innings.

Dilullo walked the first three batters in LaBrae’s lineup as he struggled to find his control. He managed to record his first out of the game against Brogan Collins, though, striking out LaBrae’s catcher. The strikeout led to another and a third, as Dilullo followed three walks with three strikeouts to escape the bottom of the first with three runners stranded on base.

The momentum continued briefly when Dilullo returned to the mound in the bottom of the second inning; Dilullo forced a lead-off groundout and struck out his fourth batter of the day. And then the control disappeared again, as Dilullo walked Eric Reibold on four pitches before walking Owen Boone and surrendering a single to opposing pitcher Landon Brunstetter, loading the bases for a second consecutive inning.

Dilullo and the Bulldogs’ defense came up big when they needed to most, though, by forcing Dylan Simpson to fly out for the final out of the second inning to preserve the scoreless tie.

In the third, Dilullo walked Collins and committed a balk, putting yet another runner in scoring position with no outs. But LaBrae could not capitalize on the mistake, leaving Collins on third base at the end of the third.

Rain droplets began to fall from the sky between the third and fourth innings, sending some fans to seek cover. The teams played on, and throughout the fourth, the rain began to lighten up, seemingly giving some hope that all seven innings would be able to be played.

Poland’s offense had its best half inning in the top of the fourth, during which it put three runners on base only to hit into a double play and line out to second to end the inning with a pair still on base.

In the final half inning on Wednesday, Dilullo was at his best, striking out the first two batters before forcing a flyout on the first pitch of the third at-bat.

In total, Dilullo allowed one hit, walked six and struck out half of a dozen as well in four innings. Murray said that while his pitcher did walk “way too many” batters, he commended Dilullo for finding a way out of jams to keep the game scoreless.

LaBrae’s Brunstetter surrendered three hits, recorded four strikeouts and became the only Vikings player to hit off of Dilullo on Wednesday.

After the game, Anthony said he hopes LaBrae’s hitting can “catch up” to its pitching. The Vikings will get their shot to do that, weather permitting, when they and the Bulldogs resume their game in the top of the fifth inning.

Poland first baseman Aiden Thompson is due up to lead off the inning when the game gets back underway. The contest is scheduled to resume at Eastwood Field today at about 7:15 p.m. following the conclusion of another game that will begin at 5 p.m.

Have an interesting story? Contact Preston Byers by email at pbyers@tribtoday.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @PresByers.


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