MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon High School baseball team successfully
defended its home field one last time on Wednesday.
The Yellow Jackets finished undefeated at home after rallying for a 4-3 victory over the Tri-Valley Scotties in Division I Central District Tournament play. The win made up for a first-round tournament loss to Zanesville at Yellow Jacket Field in 2009.
“Last year, we were really disappointed after that first-round loss,” said Mount Vernon senior Robert Kane. “We were undefeated at home, and then lost. We were undefeated again this year at home, and we had no intentions of losing. We didn’t want to repeat what we did last year. We pulled through and got the win, which is huge for our team and our program.”
“This is great,” said Mount Vernon senior Kody Green. “We’ve been working so hard, so coming out here and getting the ‘W’ feels pretty good. ... This gets rid of that sour taste we had after losing last year. We came in with a lot of the same variables, but we kept pushing and it worked out.”
Mount Vernon (25-3) jumped on top early, scoring twice in the bottom of the first inning. Kane reached on an errant throw, which found its way into the dugout, and moved to third on a groundout by Derek Baker. Kane scampered home when Justin Edwards came through with a two-out double to left field. Edwards then scored on a single by Russell Doup for a 2-0 lead.
Both teams left runners stranded in the first three innings, but Tri-Valley (22-3) broke through in the top of the fourth. Jason Mahon, Nathan Strock and Daniel Sensabaugh hit back-to-back-to-back singles to cut the lead to one, and then Lucas Matsuda hit a sacrifice fly, scoring Strock to tie the game at 2. Mount Vernon starter Ben Hoar got out of the inning by striking out pinch hitter Alex Lake looking.
“We always try to get up early and get the lead,” said Mount Vernon senior Alec Curry. “This team was a good team, but we got up on them. They fought back, which is what we expected.”
Hoar ran into more trouble in the fifth inning, though, walking the first two batters. Mount Vernon coach Doug Savage pulled Hoar and replaced him on the mound with Kane, which proved effective. The Scotts’ Chris Bollinger laid down a successful sacrifice bunt, advancing both runners. Cody Wagner then followed with a sacrifice fly to put Tri-Valley on top, 3-2.
The Jackets took advantage of a Tri-Valley error and some timely hitting to tie the game up in the bottom of the sixth. After a groundout by Tad Glibert started the inning, Riley Swanson reached on an error. He was erased on a fielder’s choice by Kane, but broke up the double play, which was all Mount Vernon needed. Baker followed with a single to right, moving Kane to third, and then Edwards grounded to Wade Reed at second base. Reed misplayed the ball, allowing Kane to score the tying run.
Kane gave up a two-out double to Matsuda in the top of the sixth, but stranded him by striking out Michael Newsom to end the threat. The Jackets were unable to muster much offense in the bottom of the inning, however, and the game entered the seventh tied at 3.
The Scotties got a one-out single by Brock Welker, but Welker was caught stealing a few pitches later. Kane then retired Bollinger on a flyout to send his team to the plate in the bottom of the seventh.
“That was pretty crazy,” said Kane. “I give all the glory to God for helping me out today. I didn’t expect to pitch at all. I expected Ben to go all seven and get the ‘W,’ but tournament play calls for unexpected things, and I was able to come in and throw strikes.”
Green, who was 0-for-2 so far in the game, led off the bottom of the seventh with a single to right, and Glibert laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to move Green up. A wild pitch by Eli Martin sent Green to third before another Tri-Valley error left Swanson safe. That brought Kane up to the plate. Kane took the first pitch — a strike — but didn’t let the second go by. He smashed a double to right field, scoring Green with the winning run.
“I tried to stay calm, but coach kept pressing me to step up and take it the other way, so that’s what I tried to do,” said Green. “It worked out for me.”
“My team really helped me out. Kody got on, and Tad laid a bunt down,” said Kane. “I just kept thinking, ‘Get it to the outfield,’ because I knew we needed a (sacrifice) fly. I was able to make contact at the end there.
“He threw me a curveball on the first pitch, and I didn’t want to swing at it, but he came right back with it. I was able to see it, adjust to it and make contact.”
With the win, Mount Vernon advances to the Division I Central District Semifinals on Tuesday. The Jackets will play the winner of today’s game between Pickerington North and Delaware Hayes on Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Grove City High School.
“It is great to play better competition, especially when you win,” said Curry of beating Tri-Valley. “We know the competition will keep getting better, but if we continue to play our game, we’ll be OK. ... It doesn’t matter who we play. Our game is always the same — we come out, try to get some runs, make very few errors and make hard outs at the plate.”