Story by Jim Horvath
Photos and video by Larry Bennet
So far, the 2013 season has been one of peaks and valleys for the Westlake baseball team. Tuesday at All Pro Freight Stadium, the Demons experienced all of those highs and lows in a single game.
St. Edward broke open a 3-2 game with a six-run third inning to take a 9-2 lead. Westlake one-upped the Eagles in the top of the sixth, sending 11 men to the plate and rallying for seven runs to tie the game.
But in the bottom of the seventh, Kyle Wasil’s one-out single to right brought home Alex Middleton with the game-winner as St. Edward prevailed, 10-9.
Westlake, now 8-5, struggled early against St. Edward starter Jon Laird. But an RBI double off the bat of senior first baseman Jamie Lackner in the third inning served as a preview of things to come later in the game off lefty reliever Joey Dean.
Dean, who replaced Laird to start the fifth, got through his first inning unscathed. But in the top of the sixth, a passed ball on a third strike to Demons leadoff hitter Andrew Kettel got the ball rolling for the visitors.
Mac Bilski followed with a four-pitch walk, then Alec Berkheimer singled to right to score Kettel. A throwing error on the play brought home Bilski to make it 9-4. Dean struck out Matt DuPerow, but Corbin Dunlap stepped up and roped a single to left to bring home Berkheimer.
Still down four runs, the Demons were far from done. Junior Justin Runevitch took the first pitch from Dean and drilled it over the fence in left for a two-run homer. That ignited the Demon bench and set the tone for the heart of the Westlake batting order.
“When the catcher missed that third strike and Kettel got on first, that’s how rallies start,” said Westlake head coach Brendan Zepp. “We get a few guys on, then Justin hits one out and we’re right back in it.”
Senior Danny Strodtbeck, who had a rough start for Westlake on the mound, took out his frustrations on the first pitch he saw from Dean. He ripped it into the gap and to the fence in left center to keep the rally alive. Then Lackner blasted a double off the wall in left to bring home Strodtbeck, and that was all for Dean.
Corey Jacobs took the hill for the Eagles and retired Thomas Keany on a fly out to right. But Kettel, in his second at-bat of the frame, doubled to the wall in left to bring home Lackner and tie the game at 9-9.
Meanwhile, DuPerow had been had been making the most of his first varsity pitching appearance. The Demon sophomore entered the game in the fourth and threw three innings of no-hit ball to keep his team in the game.
But with one out in the bottom of the seventh, DuPerow issued walks to Middleton and Kyle Hegedus. Zepp went to his bullpen and brought in junior Cal Patterson, who fell behind 3-1 to Wasil.
Patterson’s fifth offering made its way to left on a Wasil single, bringing home Middleton with the game-winner
“We took out a few guys, and the guys that went in got a couple of big hits,” Zepp said. Dunlap stepped up for us, Berkheimer got a big hit that got the rally going. That’s what I love about those guys. They don’t quit.
“At the end, they got the big hit. Matt kind of ran out of gas there. We tried to get one more inning out of him. We kind of pushed our luck a bit trying to save some pitching. He walked those two guys, then Cal had to come in and throw strikes. The kid had a good hit, and they win the game.
“We’ve lost few like this, but it’ll make us stronger. We’ll be better in the long run,” he added.
Zepp felt his team’s hitting, which had been struggling early on, showed signs of life during the game. The two doubles by Lackner were a example, he said.
“Jamie has been struggling trying to get his bat going,” Zepp said. “Today he finally got his first extra base hit. If we can get him, Danny and a couple of those other guys rolling, we’ll be all right.
“It was a good baseball game. We just came up short at the end. We’ve been playing some good baseball lately. If you look at our last three losses, we’ve lost all of them in the last inning on walk-offs. It’s been kind of hard to take, but we’ll keep battling.
“We’ve been on the other side of that too. That’s baseball,” he added.
Westlake was scheduled to return to Southwestern Conference play Wednesday at home against Amherst. The Demons will then travel to Avon Lake Thursday for another SWC contest. On Saturday, Westlake has a scheduled doubleheader at Medina, beginning at 10 a.m.