Two games into the big series between the Tiffin Saints and Ohio Travelers, nothing has changed.
At least, not in the standings.
After splitting Saturday's doubleheader at Peaceful Valley, the two teams remained tied for first in the Independent Baseball League standings, each sporting a 10-8 record.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Tiffin Saints pitcher Zach Botjer fires a pitch during the first game of a doubleheader against the Ohio Travelers at Peaceful Valley Saturday afternoon in Tiffin.
PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE
Erik Underwood of the Ohio Travelers belts a single during the first game of a doubleheader against the Tiffin Saints at Peaceful Valley Saturday afternoon in Tiffin.
The Saints eked out a 2-1 victory in Game 1, getting six strong innings from Zach Botjer and a two-out, tiebreaking homer from Tyler McIntyre in the sixth. In Game 2, it was Travelers' starter Jack Masin who dominated, allowing one run over a complete seven innings to beat Tiffin 4-1.
Both games were seven innings.
In the first contest, the Saints scored an unearned run in the first inning, taking advantage of two Travelers errors. The Saints returned the favor in the sixth. Dan Johnston walked, took second on a wild pitch, then took third on Kenta Nishii's single to short left. The single fell in such shallow left field that the Saints' Shane Klemcke attempted to nab Johnston at third, but his throw was wild, and allowed Johnston to score the tying run.
The tie didn't last long.
Josh Weber, a former Urbana pitcher who was making his Travelers' debut, had allowed just one hit going to the sixth, and retired Chris Winder and Evan King to open the inning.
But he fell behind in the count to McIntyre.
"He threw me a hanging curveball," McIntyre said. "I put a good swing on it."
The ball shot off McIntyre's bat, flying over the right field fence.
It was the second-consecutive game against the Travelers where McIntyre got the game-winning hit.
"He's hitting very well for us," said Saints' manager Ryan Parent. "He's either walking or he's hitting. He's doing really good."
Also really good was Botjer. Over his six innings of work, Botjer allowed seven hits, no earned runs, struck out four and walked two.
"Zach pitched a good game," McIntyre said. "Just had to come through for him."
Travelers' manager Jay Zeiter said his team could not have asked for more from its pitcher.
"(Weber) kept them off balance," Zeiter said. "A two-hitter. How can you complain about a two-hitter."
Weber struck out two in taking the loss.
Guadalupe Barrera pitched a 1-2-3 seventh for the save.
In Game 2, it was the Travelers who jumped ahead in the first inning. Erik Underwood had an RBI single and his brother Scott followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.
Masin, a former Bowling Green State University hurler, took it from there.
He was only in trouble once. That came in the third inning, when Winder singled, took second on an error, then came into score when King singled. King took second on the throw home and went to third on a passed ball. He represented the tying run, and there was only one out.
But Masin got tough. He struck out McIntyre, walked Wes Patterson, then got Tyler Surnbrock to hit into a fielder's choice.
"I just go in there and do my thing," Masin said. "I have great confidence with the stuff I have. I might not throw hard but I control all my pitches. The big thing today was just getting ground outs."
Masin struck out two, walked one and allowed four hits. Masin faced just one over the minimum over the last four innings.
"We got great pitching from Jack Masin, and timely hitting in this game," Zeiter said, "and great defense. I think we handled everything that was thrown at us that second game."
The Travelers added on in the fifth against Tiffin starter Steve Landell. Masa Miyadera crushed a double over the left fielder's head to open the inning. Travelers' shortstop Ray Frias was up next. The Saints expected a bunt, and in fact, Zeiter said he had called for one.
But after Landell missed the strike zone on his first two pitches, Zeiter changed strategies.
"He looked at me, and I said, 'Hit,'" Zeiter said. "I don't know if he heard me, but obviously, he did it."
The crack of the bat told the story.
Frias crushed the ball, sending it far over the left field fence for a two-run homer.
Frias said a blast was the last thing on his mind.
"I'm a two-hole hitter, my job is to get the 3-4-5 guys up," he said. "So the first two pitches, I was trying to bunt (Miyadera) over, but they weren't good pitches.
"I said I was going to react and try to get it the other way. (The pitch) was middle-in, good swing on it, and there it goes."
Frias was asked if he knew it was a homer.
"No," he said. "I'm not a home run hitter, so I hit it and took off running."
Landell took the loss for the Saints, going 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and not walking a batter. Travis Smith got the final two outs of the sixth, and Dylan Badura pitched a scoreless seventh.
The teams will be back in action today at Peaceful Valley. Blake Ware gets the ball for the Saints, while the Travelers will counter with Jeremy Gooding.
The first pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m.