The baseball team's first-round sectional game against Shaker Heights couldn’t have started any better.
After a one-two-three top of the first, the Tigers had the bases loaded with no outs thanks to three consecutive walks from Raider ace Spencer Byers. Shaker escaped allowing just two runs and retaliated quickly: scoring eight runs in the next three innings for an 8-2 victory.
“I knew if we didn’t get on (Byers) early we were going to have trouble,” Cleveland Heights head coach Mike Dillon said. “He’s probably the hardest thrower we saw (all) year.”
The Tigers scored their first run off of a passed ball that advanced Sam Collins from second to third, but Trey Hopkins failed to advance to second.
The very next play, fortune seemed to favor Cleveland Heights when a blooper dropped into right field and scored Collins. Hopkins, however, was stuck between first and second because there was only one out and was thrown out at second. Byers then struck out Ardell Cloud to end the inning.
“Once they’re making a play on the guy at the plate, the guy on first has got to go to second,” Dillon said. “They made an error that ended up being a fielder's choice.”
Byers settled in after the first, only allowing five more base runners for the rest of the game and striking out a total of 13 batters.
“Once he settled down after that first inning, he found his groove in exactly the way we hoped that he would,” Shaker Heights head coach Mike Babinec said.
Shaker Heights answered instantly in the second. Trey Modlin sent a double up the middle followed by Tom Loeffler’s liner into right field. Alec Coughlin sent a shot over second base to score Modlin and Byers sacrificed Ryan Walling in on a deep shot to right.
The Raiders took the lead in the third, Modlin struck again with a shot into right-center that scored Connor Hall. Walling scored Modlin off of a double down the right field line. Shaker Heights poured it on in the fourth with four more. Charles Widen crushed a triple to deep center field that scored Byers and then scored himself off of a sacrifice squeeze play.
Trent Gramlich reached on an infield single, stole second and then advanced to third on a passed ball. Jacob Shick sent a shot to the second baseman who tried to throw Gramlich out at the plate but the throw sailed wide. Hall reached base on a double and Modlin sent another shot up the middle for his second RBI of the day.
“Our pitchers made some good pitches, but they got the bat on the ball and found holes,” Dillon said. “They did a good job of base running, they had a delayed steal and stole others outright.”
Despite not advancing out of the first round, the Tigers still have plenty of makeup games remaining in the season. Thursday and Friday they have road games against league mate Shaw. Saturday they face Brush and Aurora at the Cheyfitz Tournament and have two more league games to make up (slated for sometime next week, check highschoolsports.net for updates). With a 7-1 regular season conference record, a league championship is still a viable goal.