ST. MARYS — Johnny Crawford’s bottom of the first could’ve turned disastrous. The first three St. Marys batters reached base off Wapakoneta’s left-handed ace and Roughrider clean-up hitter Mason Gross hit a screamer to the left side of the infield that had multiple runs batted in written all over it.
The ball instead landed in the glove of Wapak third baseman Marshall Gerlach, who snagged the hissing liner and doubled up the runner at third base by stepping on the bag to defuse the potentially explosive half inning.
After getting a little help from his friends, Crawford did the rest. The Bowling Green recruit twirled a complete-game, six-hit shutout to lead the Redskins to a 2-0 win over St. Marys at K.C. Geiger Park on Friday evening.
Wapakoneta at St. Marys baseball photos:
“A lot of times for good pitchers, that first inning is the toughest,” Wapakoneta coach Gabe Coil said. “They have to find a way to get in their rhythm, but that double play settled him down. When the defense comes in and makes a play, he could just settle down and throw his game.”
Crawford struck out five and walked two over his seven innings on the mound.
Wapakoneta (12-5) went ahead with a run in the top of the fifth inning. Brandon Schreiber, who went 2-for-3 with a run scored in the game, doubled over the head of the centerfielder with one out. Gerlach followed with a walk. St. Marys starting pitcher Codie Deaton got the second out of the inning by striking out Chace Culver, but Dylan Knoch walked to load the bases for Redskin leadof hitter Alex Koch.
Koch faced a new pitcher in St. Marys’ Austin James, who relieved Deaton after the St. Marys starter worked four and two-thirds innings and gave up one run on two hits and struck out seven. Wapak’s Koch coaxed the bases-loaded walk off James to force in the game’s first run.
“Codie Deaton pitched a heck of a game,” St. Marys head coach Dave Huber said. “He battled hard. This is a quality Wapak team.”
An inning later Wapakoneta’s Andrew Hines powered an insurance run over the left field fence, picking out a pitch that wandered into the center of the plate and lining it over the fence just left of the 343-foot sign. Wapak led 2-0.
“It relieves the pressure,” Coil said. “With a one-run lead, he had to be perfect. You get that extra run and relieved some pressure.”
In the end, it was the first inning that came back to haunt St. Marys.
The Riders were poised to jump out early in the defending Division II state runners up when Nathan Vogel hit a single through the box to lead off the bottom of the first. Isaac Fitzgerald walked and Nathan Wilker loaded the bases with a hard-hit single through the right side into right field to start a night that would see Vogel go 3-for-4 at the plate. That set up Gross’ line-out double play. After Wapakoneta committed an error on a Tyler Rose grounder, Crawford got St. Marys’ Tristan Becker swinging to end the threat.
“That’s kind of been the story of us this season,” Huber said. “We get people on base, we get bases loaded and we aren’t able to get them in.”
The Riders made one last run at their Auglaize County rivals in the bottom of the seventh. The Roughriders got runners on the corners after a leadoff walk and a two-out single by Nathan Vogel. but Isaac Fitzgerald, who represented the potential winning run bounced into a fielder’s choice at second base to end the game.
“We put ourselves in the positions to win the game, but we just didn’t get it done,” Huber said.
St. Marys’ Gross doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth but he was stranded at third base when Crawford got back-to-back groundout to shortstop.
St. Marys dropped to 2-12 on the season and 1-5 in the Western Buckeye League. The Roughriders will host Sidney for a doubleheader on Saturday that begins at noon at K.C. Geiger Park.