Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
As losses go, this one was a tough one for the Rocky River baseball team to stomach.
The Pirates took a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning last Thursday in a Division II district baseball semifinal against Firelands. But six Falcons came to plate in that fateful final frame.
The first three made it home as Firelands rallied for a 3-2 stunner at The Pipe Yard in Lorain.
The loss ended the Pirates’ shot at advancing to the Division II regionals. Firelands had its dream shattered the next day as Padua advanced with an 8-2 win over the Falcons to advance to Thursday’s regional semifinals in Tiffin.
Rocky River exited the tournament and ended its season at 13-13 after a bases loaded fly out to left off the bat of Brett Helton brought in Justin Baumann with the game winner.
“We held their hitters in check until the last inning,” said Pirates head coach Darryl Sanders, whose team scored single runs in the second and fourth innings to take a 2-0 lead.
“They sent a couple through, and we had just talked about the situation on the bunt,” Sanders said, referring to Baumann’s bunt that loaded the bases and helped set the stage for the Firelands rally.
“Sometimes players get caught up in the moment, and we didn’t make that play,” Sanders said. “That may have changed things a bit, because maybe that fly ball isn’t as big. But they hit the ball when they needed to, and that’s the game.
“If the ball was bunted hard, we were going to go to third, but it was a tweener. We were going to one on something hit like that. We had our coverage, but you can put that on me. Maybe I didn’t communicate it well enough, I don’t know,” he added.
Firelands’ Garrett Monhollen opened the inning with a single up the middle, and Kyle Smith did the same thing on the first pitch he saw from River starter Justin Seffernick. Up to the plate came Baumann, who bunted an 0-1 pitch toward the mound.
Seffernick hesitated, looked at third, then threw to first. Baumann beat the throw to load the bases with nobody out, sending Cody Northeim to the plate. Northeim, who was 0-for-2 on the day, drew the walk to bring in the first run of the day for the Falcons.
Joe San Felippo followed with the Falcons’ third single of the inning, driving in Smith and tying the game at 2-2. With the bases still loaded, Helton sent the first pitch to left field, Baumann tagged...and the game was over.
“We felt good with a two-run lead,” Sanders said. “The big question was if Justin was fine or not. We had the bottom of their order coming up, and I thought he could get through that without a problem.
“But the bottom of their order came up and got some big hits,” he added.
Seffernick (4-4) had scattered five hits in the first six innings and had worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the second. The Pirate senior had retired nine of the previous 10 batters he faced in the fourth, fifth and sixth frames, allowing only a two-out infield single in the fifth.
In the meantime, the River offense got on the board in the second when designated hitter Max Barrow walked, went to third on an error and scored on outfielder Matt Shaver’s RBI single to left. With Seffernick holding the Falcons’ offense in check, that run loomed large.
The Pirates struck again in the fourth when Seffernick singled, went to third on another Barrow single and scored on a wild pitch from Falcon starter Chris Hertrick (7-3).
At the time, that run looked to be nothing more than an insurance run. In the end, it proved to be not enough for the Pirates to advance. But despite the disappointment, Sanders felt his team had accomplished something in 2012.
“It’s fabulous to get here,” he said. “The goal every year is to get to this game and the district championship game. I think these guys bought into that. We played a very tough schedule, and our record doesn’t reflect the type of team we were this year top to bottom.
“We’re a solid team. Every high school team makes mistakes from time to time. Unfortunately, our mistakes came at the wrong time today,” he added.