Panthers nip Potters in 7th

STEUBENVILLE – Out hit, but not outscored was the Buckeye Local baseball team Saturday as it scored a run in the bottom of the seventh inning for an 8-7 win over East Liverpool in the opening round of the Ohio Division II sectional tournament at Vaccaro Field.

The underdog Potters never had the lead, but battled back to tie the game three times before finally giving up the winning run.

“We don’t get outhit too often,” said victorious Panther coach, Rick DeLuca, whose team was out hit 12-11. “We hit pretty good, but not as good a usual. We played this team (East Liverpool) last week and beat them 7-0.

“They’re scrappy. You can tell they’re scrappy and hang in there and keep coming at you, but our kids don’t quit either.”

On the other hand, coach Bill Bailey of East Liverpool was proud of his team.

“We just needed a couple of breaks here and there, but our kids made a heck of a comeback there in the seventh to tie it,” he said. “I only have one senior and one junior. The rest are all freshmen and sophomores.

“From the beginning of the year till now, we’ve come a long way. I’m real happy with the progress we’ve made. The way we played today was unbelievable. We out hit them. We just needed a couple of breaks here and there. I made a couple of mistakes on base runners.”

Bailey was referring specifically to the fourth inning where sophomore pitcher, Hunter Maze was thrown out at home plate trying to score from second base on a hit by Briar Meek.

“I was too late trying to stop him at third,” Bailey recalled. “The left fielder (Eric Banal) made a nice play on the ball. Earlier he made a bad throw so I thought we could take a chance.”

The Potters got a couple of hits after that and ended up scoring two runs, but undoubtedly would have scored at least three runs in the inning.

Buckeye Local opened the scoring with three runs in the bottom of the first inning, got single runs in the third and fifth innings then two more in the sixth before the walk-off run in the seventh.

Jonathan Borkoski started the seventh inning rally for the Panthers with a sharp single to center field. He was nailed at second base trying to steal, but Banal, who had two hits, 2 RBIs and scored three runs, laced a single then promptly stole second base. Brian Zeroski’s bouncer to second was misplayed and Josh Figurski worked Maze for a walk to load the bases.

“I told Banal at third base that he was scoring if the ball got by the catcher or to tag on a fly ball,” said DeLuca. “I said we were going to score him one way or another and that’s what happened when (Eric) Williams got that walk-off hit.”

Williams, the starting pitcher and, eventually, the winning pitcher, gave up the Potters’ first four runs, was relieved in the sixth inning by Lucas Ostijich, but reentered the game in the top of the seventh inning to get the third out. He allowed Parker Bowers to single in two runs that were charged to Ostijich, but he wheeled and picked off Bowers at second base to retire the side.

Williams had done little at the plate in his first two appearances, but he blooped the second pitch he saw in the seventh down the right field line that barely landed inside the foul line to drive home Banal with the winning run.

The victory is the 12th for the Panthers against 14 losses and propels them into another tournament game Thursday at 5 p.m. against Harrison Central. DuLuca said the Panthers split with Harrison Central during the regular season beating them 8-2 and losing 5-2.

Meanwhile, the Potters still have a regular season game remaining Monday at home against East Palestine.