By Brad Morris
Circleville scored a pair of key insurance runs on Thursday in the seventh to hold off a late rally by host Logan Elm and record a 10-8 Mid-State League Buckeye Division win.
The Tigers saw an 8-2 lead melt away to only a one run lead entering the final inning of play.
“I felt like we took our foot off the gas and we gave away some at-bats and didn’t add to our advantage,” Circleville coach Brian Bigam said.
Tate DeBord lined a single to left and pinch-runner Angelo Travis stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error on the play.
After Matt Bradley reached on an infield single to shortstop and stole second, Nolan West singled to right to drive in Travis.
Back-to-back walks to Austin Gray and Logan Smith forced in Bradley to put the Tigers ahead 10-7.
“We shouldn’t have been in that situation, but I was pleased to see the way our guys battled back there and responded,” Bigam said. “Tate got us going with a big hit and then Matt and Nolan stepped up with a couple of key hits. We also got some good at-bats from Austin and Logan there to work a couple of walks.”
The Braves continued to battle in their final at-bat.
Back-to-back doubles by Kyle Rine and Zack Parks cut the CHS lead down to 10-8.
Following a strikeout, Mason Gentry was hit by a pitch to put the tying run on base.
Circleville closed the door when reliever Nolan West struck out his second batter of the inning and a runner was caught attempting to steal third to end the game, with the putout going from Austin Gray to Travis.
The Tigers led from start-to-finish, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first and eventually extending their advantage to 8-2 after four innings of play.
“We came out and played pretty decent but, again, we kinda stagnated there in the middle innings when Logan Elm brought Carson Summers in,” Bigam said. “You have to give Summers some credit for that, as well, for throwing some quality pitches.”
Logan Elm scored its five runs in the sixth all with two outs in the inning.
Rine was hit by a pitch, and Parks and Blayton Reid both worked walks to load the sacks full of Braves.
An errant pickoff attempt at first allowed Rine to score.
Zane Seimer then doubled to center, driving in Parks and Reid. An error by the center fielder also allowed Gentry to come around and score.
Kelton Bennington lined a single to center one out later to drive in Seimer and suddenly make it a one-run game.
“We were living on the edge for most of the game, hitting six batters and walking five, and Logan Elm really took advantage of those extra outs there in the sixth,” Bigam said. “When we had two outs there, we needed to shut the door on the inning, but we also struggled some with our outfield play, missing a cutoff and a couple of other things that didn’t help.
“Give credit to Logan Elm’s kids, because they kept battling even though they were down six and they never gave up.”
Matt Bradley turned in a perfect 3-for-3 ledger with three runs scored to lead the Tigers. Logan Smith was 2-for-3 with two RBI and two runs scored and Brody Brisker also turned in a 2-for-4 evening with an RBI and two runs scored.
“Matt had a really nice approach at the plate and it paid off with a big night to help lead us,” Bigam said. “We also got some contributions from other spots in the lineup.”
Bennington went 2-for-4 with an RBI, Gentry was 2-for-3 and scored twice and Seimer ended the evening 2-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored for the Braves.
Trent Smith earned the win for the Tigers, scattering six hits over five innings and allowing two earned runs. He walked a batter, hit two and struck out three.
“This was Trent’s first start of the season and he battled and competed to give us five good innings,” Bigam said. “He hit a couple of batters and made a few mistakes, but he was able to overcome that by pounding the strike zone and getting ahead of Logan Elm’s hitters, which is something we’ve been very inconsistent with as a pitching staff this season.”
West struck out a pair in the seventh to nail down the save.
Both teams continue league play on Friday, as the Tigers (8-6, 4-3) travel to Fairfield Union and the Braves (3-12, 2-6) host Hamilton Township.
Bigam discussed what the Tigers need to do going forward to have more consistent success.
“We’ve been in a pattern where we win one and lose one or we win a couple and lose a couple,” Bigam said. “For us to get past this and start stringing some wins together, we need to play as a team and for each other and stop worrying about ourselves as individuals. We also need to get tougher mentally and do a better job of handling adversity if we want to have more consistent success.”