Lima, OH – Barons Baseball is still in the midst of a strong 2011 ORC Tournament showing. As the #3 Seed, the Barons opened tournament play with a win over #6 Seed OSU Mansfield on Tuesday by a score of 12 to 1. Cory Echols got the win for the Barons, pitching all 6 innings of the mercy rule shortened game. Echols allowed the 1 earned run on 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 6. Offensively the Barons had 16 hits by 7 members of the team, with 1 hit being the walkoff homerun hit by Chris Crosswhite, his first homerun of the year. “We knew we had to come out and be aggressive with our bats today. Mansfield has scored a ton of runs this year and well you just can’t plan on anyone, even a pitcher of Cory’s (Echols) ability to throw that well,” said Head Baseball Coach Abe Ambroza! “We’re 1 step closer to our goal of a tournament championship and will now be facing a very strong OU Zanesville squad on Friday. We haven’t seen them all year, but I know Coach Pollock always does a great job of having his team prepared to play solid baseball.”
So, on Friday the Barons traveled to Lancaster’s Beavers Field to take on the #2 Seed OU Zanesville. Unfortunately, this day belonged to Zanesville pitcher James Montgomery as the Zanesville ace held the Barons to just 1 run by scattering only 3 hits over 7 innings as the final score was OUZ 3 and the Barons 1. “It was just one of those days. We came out with a good attitude, I thought we played real good baseball and put some good swings together. Unfortunately, we hit a lot of balls hard right at OUZ defenders, and give them credit they made some great plays too,” said Ambroza. With the loss, the Barons were forced in to the loser’s bracket where they would face OU Lancaster on Saturday.
In the game versus OU Lancaster, things started out much like the contest versus OU Zanesville. The Barons were hitting balls hard, but they were hitting them in the wrong places and saw themselves in a 2 run hole going in to the bottom of the 5th inning. Sophomore Greg Patterson led off the inning with a single up the middle. That was followed up by a double in the left center gap by Sophomore Damon Koverman to put runners on 2nd and 3rd. After Sophomore Tyler Slonecker had a flare snagged by the OUL second baseman, Freshman Marcus Vonderembse stepped up and delivered a run scoring fielder’s choice ground ball to close the gap to 1 run. Freshman Kyle Hall followed that up with a walk, then Freshman David Spearman delivered the game tying hit stroking a single to left field. The rally ended in the 5th for the Barons on a strikeout of Sophomore David Wurst. Starting pitcher Cory Echols worked out of a huge jam in the 6th. After the first runner reached on a passed ball swinging strikeout, the 2nd hitter was singled up the middle giving Lancaster runners at 1st and 3rd with nobody out. The following OUL batter then failed to get down an attempted squeeze bunt, instead popping it up to Echols who was also able to double up the runner at 1st base on the play. “That was a huge momentum swing right there for us! Cory made a heads up play after catching the bunt in the air by doubling up their guy at first,” said Ambroza. Echols followed up his nice play with a big strikeout of the next OUL hitter and the Barons sprinted off the field full of emotion and it was clear to all they had the momentum on their side.
True to form, the Barons used that momentum in their half of the 6th as Freshman Rusty Lammers and Patterson strung together 2 one out hits to give the Barons runners at the corners with 1 out and the hot bat of Koverman at the plate. After battling a couple tough pitches, Koverman was plunked by an inside fastball and loaded the bases full of Barons! Sophomore Tyler Slonecker was due up next for the Barons and he delivered with a sacrifice fly to deep right field, scoring Lammers, the go ahead run. The Barons weren’t done however as Freshman Marcus Vonderembse added 2 more very big insurance runs with a 2 out single to right, giving the young outfielder 3 RBI on the day. “Our depth has been one of our greatest strengths all year. It’s really nice as a coach to be standing in the 3rd base coaches box, with complete confidence in every single batter that steps up to the plate whether they’re batting first, third, or ninth. Tyler (Slonecker) has struggled to get in to much of a groove so far this year, but with his experience I was totally confident that he would deliver for us in that situation. Then with Marcus (Vonderembse), even though he hasn’t had a very high number of at bats this year, he’s been consistent in his approach at the plate the whole time, so his big hit there didn’t surprise me at all,” added Coach Ambroza.
Now, with a 3 run lead in hand, Echols returned to the mound and delivered 3 quick outs for the Barons delivering the victory. “Cory (Echols) has been a quality starter for us both of his years here. This year, he started slowly due to some issues with mechanics that an ankle injury caused, but he’s definitely found his groove again and at just the right time,” Said Coach Ambroza!
With the win over OU Lancaster, the Barons next opponent was to be always tough Miami Middletown. The Barons did beat Middletown 4 times in the regular season, but all but 1 of those contests were extremely close.
So, on Sunday the Barons met up with MU Middletown for the 5th time in 2011. For the first time in a while the Barons were able to be the first ones to get on the scoreboard as David Spearman led off the game with a single and later scored on double off the bat of Echols. In the 3rd, MU Middletown answered with their first run off Barons pitcher Freshman Rusty Lammers, they then took the lead with another run in the 4th to make it MU Middletown 2 and the Barons 1 after 4 innings. Lammers went out and got 3 quick outs in the 5th, and finally looked to be finding his groove. “I know he had only given up the 2 runs, but Rusty just wasn’t sharp yet. We talked about some changes he needed to make mid game, he did them, and well he was pretty much unhittable after that,” Said Coach Ambroza. In the Barons half of the 5th Sophomore David Wurst smacked a 2 out double down the line in left field. That was then followed up by another run producing hit by Echols to tie the game at two. Damon Koverman moved Echols over to 3rd with a single of his own to left. Then, Echols was driven in on a run producing double by Greg Patterson to give the Barons the 3 to 2 lead. Lammers retired the next 3 batters in order in the 6th and the Barons then added an insurance run as Marcus Vonderembse was able to score on a Spearman ground ball to short. So, with a 2 run lead Lammers returned to the mound, and again delivered 3 straight outs for the Barons. “Timely hits, good defense, and a great start by Rusty (Lammers) gave us this big win today. I mean it, I was really impressed by Rusty today. He was struggling a lot early, not feeling good about any of his stuff, but he just kept battling. Late in the game we talked about making a small lower half adjustment and he became the unhittable guy I know he has the potential to be all the time,” Said Ambroza.
With the win over MU Middletown, the Barons have advanced to the tournament Semi-finals versus OU Zanesville. The game is currently scheduled to be played at 5pm on Tuesday, May 17th at Beavers field in Lancaster.