NEWARK – It was shocking.
It was stunning.
And, just like that, on a Licking County strikeout, the game was over and the hex at Don Edwards Field continued.
Licking County pinch-runner Woody Wallace scored from third with two outs on a strikeout/wild pitch in the home ninth inning to lift the Settlers to a 10-9 victory over the Lima Locos late Wednesday night at Don Edwards Field.
Licking County took 1-0 lead in the best-of-three Great Lakes Collegiate League playoff semifinals.
Game 2 is scheduled for 7 p.m. today at Lima’s Simmons Field. Game 3, if necessary, will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Simmons Field.
“We’ve won two in a run before,” Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger said. “I think our guys are going to be ready to go tomorrow.”
With two outs and Wallace at third, it appeared Locos closer Erich Stahl had struck out Nick Paxton on a fastball. But after Paxton swung and missed, the ball nose dived into the dirt and bounced well away from Locos catcher Mason George. That allowed Wallace to come home with the game-winning run.
“It was a fastball and I didn’t do a good enough job to get in front of,” George said. “I’ll take the blame for this one. It hit the dirt, but as a catcher, it’s your job to be a backstop back there.”
Ehrnsberger added, “Fastballs in the dirt are often the toughest balls to block because you aren’t expecting fastballs to be in the dirt. Stahl throws hard, so I don’t fault Mason at all.”
Zyke Bailey led off the home ninth getting on when he was hit by a Stahl pitch. He was bunted to second by Brian Wilhite. Wallace then came in to run for Bailey and went to third on a wild pitch.
That set up Paxton’s game-winning strikeout/wild pitch.
As the game ended, both teams traded verbal exchanges in front of the Locos’ dugout.
“It was their on-deck hitter who came over and ran in front of our dugout and ran his mouth,” Ehrnsberger said. … “I liked the fire our guys showed and hopefully we come out with that fire in the first inning.”
The Locos have now lost 13 straight at Licking County, with their last win coming on June 14, 2011.
The Locos took an 8-0 lead in the fourth when they scored four in the third and four more in the fourth.
But Licking County scored two in the home fourth to get within 8-2. Then, when the Settlers pushed in five runs in the home sixth, they cut the Locos’ lead to 9-7. Licking scored two more in the eight and tied the game at 9.
For the Locos, Kyle Lewis went 3 for 5. Daniel Garner went 1 for 4 with a three-run home run and four RBIs. Dylan Ingram went 3 for 3 with two walks. Brett Carlson was 3 for 4 with three RBIs.
For Licking County, GLCL batting champion Paxton went 3 for 6. Justin Byrd was 2 for 5 with a triple and three RBIs.
Game 1 in the best-of-three Great Lakes Collegiate League semifinal series was scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday at Don Edwards Field, but the monsoon-like rain pushed the starting time back to close to 8 p.m.
The Locos scored four in the second to take a 4-0 lead. Matt Furuto walked and Lewis singled to right, giving the Locos their first hit. That put runners at first and third.
Garner’s sacrifice fly to center gave the Locos a 1-0 lead. Ingram followed with a double to right-center field. Carlson’s RBI single to right made it 2-0. Jalen Washington followed with an RBI double to right-center that just eluding a diving center fielder Nick Paxton and it was 3-0. George had a sacrifice fly and the Locos’ lead grew to 4-0.
The Locos added four more runs in the fourth. D.J. Smith walked and Lewis slipped a hit-and-run single to right.
Garner followed with a blast of a three-run home run over the center-field fence. That gave Lima a 7-0 lead.
Carlson’s bloop RBI single to right made it 8-0.
The Settlers scored two in the fourth to get within 8-2.
Tanner Rainey had a solo homer to center to bring Licking within 8-1. Bailey’s RBI double made it 8-2.
Carlson added an RBI single in the sixth to give the Locos a 9-2 lead.
Licking scored five in the sixth. Kyle Hunsinger put down a two-run sacrifice bunt. Byrd lined a two-run triple to the right-field fence and Licking was within 9-7.
Licking then scored two in the eighth of reliever James Naile to tie the game at 9. Byrd’s RBI single made it 9-8, while Rainey’s sacrifice fly to right tied the game.
Locos starter lefty Dan Sexton looked good early with his moving change-up, but began trouble locating his pitches in the fifth and sixth.
He went 5 1/3 innings and gave up five runs, all earned, on 10 hits. He struck out four and walked two. He threw 85 pitches, 57 on strikes.
“If he’s behind in the count, he’s going to struggle,” Ehrnsberger said.
Tyler Anderson did throw 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief, giving up one hit. He was taken out to start the eighth when his right elbow tightened up.
“He felt a little something in his elbow,” Ehrnsberger said.
Locos notes: This marks the fourth straight year the Locos have met Licking County in the playoffs. Last year Licking County defeated the Locos in the best-of-three championship finals, 2-0. In 2012, the Settlers knocked out the Locos in the best-of-three semifinals, 2-1. In 2011, the Locos defeated Licking County in the best-of-three semifinals, 2-1.
The Locos went 1-4 against Licking County this summer. The Locos were 1-2 at home and 0-2 at Newark. But their last meeting came on July 3 at Simmons Field when the Locos were 11-10. They finished the regular season 27-13.
Licking has the top two hitters in the GLCL in outfielder Nick Paxton (Liberty) and infielder Kolin McMillen (Flagler). Paxton won the batting crown at .438, while McMillen hit .404. Paxton had seven doubles, while McMillen had six. Neither one had a home run.
McMillen hasn’t played in the playoffs because of ankle and wrist injuries.
Tanner Rainey (West Alabama) hit .355 for Licking County and led the Settlers in home runs (3) and RBIs (20).
The Locos counter with center fielder Kyle Lewis (Mercer), who was named the GLCL player of the year and the prospect of the year. Lewis hit .342 and led the league in runs (41) and RBIs (36). He was second with six home runs.
Locos catcher/designated hitter Daniel Garner (Mississippi State) batted .327 and led the league with eight home runs. He also had 13 doubles, one shy of the Locos’ record, with 32 RBIs.
Locos first baseman Dylan Ingram (Mississippi State) hit .274 with three home runs and tied Lewis for the RBI title with 36.
Licking County led the league in hitting at .293, while the Locos finished third at .275. Licking County was third in the league in pitching with a .327 ERA. The Locos led the league at 3.06.
Licking County finished the regular season 19-18, in fifth place, 6 ½ games behind the first-place Locos.
In Tuesday’s playoff action, Licking County defeated Grand Lake, 2-1, then knocked off Cincinnati, 2-0, to advance to the semifinals against the Locos.
In the bottom bracket, Xenia advanced to the best-of-three semifinals against Southern Ohio. Southern Ohio defeated Xenia in Game 1 14-3 Wednesday at Xenia.