MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School varsity baseball team knows how to win. On Monday, the Yellow Jackets got a lesson in theatrics as well.
Mount Vernon overcame an early deficit, only to have to rally for a 5-4 Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division win over New Albany on Monday afternoon.
“This is a big win, obviously, because New Albany, Mount Vernon and Hilliard Bradley all had one loss in the league,” said Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage. “With the win, we stay right on pace as a front runner after the first round. When you only play 14 league games, they are all important, especially when you are playing teams that are tied with you. Depending on what Hilliard Bradley does, we are tied for no worse than first place in the league right now.”
Hilliard Bradley lost to Watkins Memorial on Monday, 9-5.
Against the Jackets (11-2, 6-1 OCC), New Albany (9-7, 5-2 OCC) jumped on top early, scoring a single run in the top of the first. A one-out single by Brian Wyer gave the Eagles a base runner, and a pickoff attempt went awry after Justin Edwards’ throw sailed into left field. That allowed Wyer to advance to third, and an RBI single by Demaree Parsons brought him in for the 1-0 lead. Mount Vernon got out of the inning after a flyout to right and a successful pickoff attempt caught Parsons in a rundown.
Both teams had opportunities in the first four innings, but neither was able to take advantage of them. Kolton Wilson, Kody Green and Alec Curry all collected hits for the Jackets in the first four innings, but all were stranded as Eagle pitcher Michael VanStraten kept Mount Vernon off the scoreboard. Mount Vernon pitcher Robert Kane did the same, stranding two New Albany base runners. He also picked another runner off first, and the Mount Vernon defense turned a double play.
Things began to change in the bottom of the fifth for Mount Vernon. A one-out single by Kenny Rucker got the Jackets in business, and back-to-back singles by Riley Swanson and Kane plated Rucker with the first run, despite a close play at the plate. Rucker had to hop over the tag of Bryant Bednarek to reach the plate.
Mount Vernon wasn’t done, however. Wilson hit into a fielder’s choice, which went down as an error after the throw to second missed its mark. That allowed a charging Swanson to score, and Kane came home after right fielder Dan Brittan threw the ball away trying to get him at third.
“Once we got the lead, I was just trying to not give it up,” said Kane. “I knew one run wasn’t going to beat us; I knew eventually we were going to break out.”
Edwards made it a 4-1 game with an RBI single to right, scoring Wilson, but Edwards was stranded after VanStraten induced a pair of groundouts to end the inning.
“I thought [New Albany’s] pitcher did a heck of a job,” Savage said. “He was a quality pitcher, maybe the best one we’ve seen so far this year. He had good command of three pitches. He wasn’t really striking us out a lot, but he kept us off balance. ... Even when we got our four runs in the bottom of the fifth, we had some hits, but mostly we just put some pressure on them and they threw it around a little bit. That created some opportunities for us.”
New Albany answered with a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning to cut the lead to one, 4-3. The big blow was a two-run single to center by Nick Bowman.
The Eagles then tied the game at 4 in the top of the seventh inning. A leadoff single by Bednarek started the inning and pinch hitter Christian Teaple drove him in with an RBI double to right. A sacrifice bunt moved Nolan Rehmer, running in place of Teaple, to third and it looked like New Albany might take the lead back with only one out. A fielder’s choice by Sam Krebs, however, turned disastrous after Rehmer was caught in a rundown between third and home. Wilson applied the tag as Rehmer tried to avoid him and suddenly there were two out. Kane then went to work on Wyer with Krebs on second. Wyer hit a 2-1 pitch to center, and the ball appeared to have burned Rucker. Rucker, however, made an outstanding over-the-shoulder grab of the ball while running backward to end the inning.
“Our defense was huge,” said Kane. “Our infield came up big early and saved some runs, and then Rucker made that catch in center field. That saved us the game.”
“We were playing well overall, fielding whatever came,” said Rucker. “My catch in the outfield came straight to me, but then it started tailing behind me, so I just made a jump for it. ... I was a little scared, but I’ve always wanted to make that kind of catch, and today I did.”
That left Mount Vernon with a shot at the walk-off win in the bottom of the inning, and that’s exactly what happened. Back-to-back singles by Kane and Wilson started the inning, and after missing the first two pitches on Edwards, he was intentionally walked to load the bases. That brought up Curry, who had tripled in the fourth inning. After getting behind 1-2 in the count, Curry managed to battle back to a full count. He then watched ball four from VanStraten, which forced in Kane with the winning run.
“Curry doesn’t like to walk; he likes to hit the ball,” Kane said. “He took a couple of big swings there and I wasn’t real sure what was going to happen, but I trust my teammates. He pulled through for us.”
The win sets up an exciting week for Mount Vernon. The Jackets have two more conference games scheduled this week — Wednesday at home against Olentangy Orange and Friday at Delaware — but first they will host Zanesville tonight at 5.
“Zanesville beat us last year, putting us out of the tournament, 7-5,” said Savage. “Our kids are hungry; they want to beat them, they want to win. Zanesville, last I saw, is 13-1 with their only loss to Walsh Jesuit, 8-7. They are expecting big things and so are we. We are going to throw Ben Hoar, and go out and try to beat them. We’re hoping to maybe catch the eye of some of the Central District poll voters if we can beat Zanesville.”