TALLMADGE — The Mount Vernon All-Stars improved to 2-0 at the 2009 Ohio State Little League Tournament in Tallmadge over the weekend. After opening with an 11-2 victory over South Point on Saturday, Mount Vernon held off Bellevue to win, 9-7, Sunday evening.
Mount Vernon led the game, 6-1, in the third inning, only to see Bellevue tie the game at 7 in the bottom of the fifth. J.D. Orr and Ryan Fitzgerald hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth, however, to give Mount Vernon the win.
“This has kind of been our signature. We come out and jump on people, then we get a little complacent,” said Mount Vernon manager Phil Arck. “I think we found out tonight those days are gone. We need to battle the whole game to win, and tonight we did. They came back. Ryan and J.D. came up with two big hits, and our defense came through. All around, the whole team came in and did their job tonight. I was really proud of our effort.”
Mount Vernon started the game with a solo home run by Orr in the top of the first inning, and tallied three runs in the first inning. Fitzgerald doubled and Griffin Menke hit an RBI single with no outs. Menke came around to score after an error and an RBI single by Tyler Galbraith.
Bellevue got one run back in the bottom of the inning after Dylan DeWitt doubled to lead off. DeWitt later scored on consecutive wild pitches by Galbraith, who ended up striking out the side to end the inning.
A leadoff single by Greg Dennis started a two-run inning for Mount Vernon in the second. Orr singled and Dennis advanced to third, but the runners weren’t done. Dennis and Orr proceeded to execute a double steal, with Dennis scoring on the play. Fitzgerald followed with an RBI single to center to put his team up, 5-1.
Bellevue went in order in the bottom of the inning to set up another Mount Vernon scoring opportunity in the third. Galbraith singled to lead off, took second on a passed ball and moved to third when Nate Davis dropped a bunt down the first-base line. Bellevue pitcher Thomas Pressler fielded the ball, but fell down in the process, which left both runners safe. Galbraith later scored on another groundout to make it a 6-1 lead.
In the bottom of the inning, Bellevue struck back with three runs off a pair of home runs. Galbraith allowed one — a solo shot by Nick Diso — and Fitzgerald came on to pitch after a walk to Clay Fries. The first batter Fitzgerald faced — Jake Strayer — hit a towering shot over the left-field fence to cut the lead to 6-4.
Mount Vernon got one run back in the top of the fourth after Orr singled and moved around on three wild pitches. Fitzgerald and Menke then had a single and double, respectively, but Fitzgerald was thrown out trying to take home for the first out. Pressler then got two ground balls to end the inning.
Just warming up, Bellevue tagged on a single run in the fourth on an RBI single by DeWitt. Then, in the fifth after Mount Vernon went in order, Bellevue added two more runs to tie the game. Once again, the long ball accounted for the runs.
Strayer singled off Tyler Hedrick, who came on in the previous inning, and Shane Miller blasted another towering shot over the left-field fence to tie the game at 7. Hedrick settled down and retired the next three batters in order.
Entering the top of the sixth, the game looked much different, but Mount Vernon had the heart of its lineup coming to the plate. Hedrick grounded out to start the inning before Orr and Fitzgerald hit their shots. Orr drove his home run to deep center field, and left no doubt about its destination.
“I was just thinking about hitting the ball,” said Orr. “I was so nervous up there, I just wanted to hit it. ... It helped [that I had faced him three times already]; I knew what was coming. He wasn’t a power pitcher at all, so I was able to just hit the ball.”
Fitzgerald’s home run was more of a surprise. Trying to check his swing, Fitzgerald managed to make contact and went with it, knocking it over the right-field fence.
“I thought they were going to feed me nothing but balls,” said Fitzgerald. “I just went up there and hit the ball. ... I was trying to hold up on it, but my hands followed through so I just lunged at it. I got lucky.”
Alex Arck came on to pitch and Bellevue went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the sixth to finish the game. The win advances Mount Vernon to the winner’s bracket semifinal tonight. They will play Hamilton West Side at 6 p.m.
“[A win like this] really builds character and shows what we can do,” said Fitzgerald. “It is great.”
“This was a big win because we don’t want to get into the loser’s bracket of this tournament,” said Orr.
Manager Arck hopes to see a little more out of his team tonight, although he does expect much tougher competition. Hamilton West Side won its only game played, beating Kingsville, 11-1, on Saturday.
“We’ve been battling everybody we’ve been playing, and I think it is going to another one [tonight],” said manager Arck. “I am really confident we can do this. I’ve heard [Hamilton] is a solid team. We are going to have to play them to the last out. That’s the way the game is going to have to go. If we battle, I think we can hang in there with them.”
“It is going to be tough,” Fitzgerald said. “We just have to bring out bats out and, hopefully, [Alex Arck] can shut them down on the mound. ... Everyone has got to do their part.”