GALION — A long drive from Southwest Ohio found the Cincinnati Steam in Galion to kick-off a two-game series with the Graders on Thursday evening at Heddleson Field.
Galion, looking to go above .500 again on the season, showed their grit and determination and earned themselves the victory, 9-8. The Graders improve to 11-10 on the year which is just one win away from tying last year’s output. Cincy falls to 13-9 after the defeat.
The Graders scored their nine runs on 13 hits and stranded 10 runners on the base path. The Steam plated eight on 12 hits while stranding nine runners on, many in scoring position. Cincy committed two errors in the field of play as Galion put up a zero in the error column on the night.
Cincinnati stepped to the plate first and would see Richard Krieger getting the start on the mound for the Graders. Galion has often times struggled in the first inning but this was not the case on Thursday. The Steam would get a well-placed bunt single in, followed by another single but the runners would be stranded at the corners as Krieger struck out Mike Moffatt to end the top of the first.
Galion would waste no time getting the offense started. After a fly out by Brady Hettinger and a ground out by Brandt Nowaskie, Austin Hathaway reached first on a walk to begin the eventual rally. Hathaway would be given second base after a balk by pitcher Clayton Colvin, who then walked slugger Braxton Giavedoni to put runners at second and first. Matt Noel stepped up to the plate and delivered a huge, 2-RBI double to give the Graders the early 2-0 advantage.
Krieger allowed a lead-off single to start the second but would not allow a run to score despite the Steam getting two base runners after a walk. In the home half of the second, Jake Hoover would reach first on a one-out single but would be erased from the base path on an inning-ending double play off of the bat of Zach Mottice.
The Steam finally got to Krieger and the Graders in the top of the third. A ground out to Hoover at short began the inning, followed by a walk to Cincy first baseman Dallas Beaver. Matt Warkentin stepped up to the plate and on a 1-1 count delivered a big two-run home run to knot the game at two runs apiece. More ground outs to the left side of the infield would get the Graders out of the third with no further damage. Galion went quietly in the bottom half of the inning with Hettinger going down on strikes, Nowasie reaching on a single but then being erased on a Hathaway fielder’s choice. With two outs, Hathaway attempted to steal second but was gunned down by Steam catcher, Hayden Senger to end the inning.
Inning number four proved to be the calm before the storm. Cincinnati had just a single in the top of the inning and that runner would eventually be stranded at third. With the score still tied up at two, Giavedoni began the inning by reaching first on an error and would proceed to steal second. Noel would blast another double, his second in as many at-bats, to score Giavedoni and retake the lead for the Graders. Jarett Smetana recorded a single but was cleared from the bases on a 4-6-3 double play hit into by Josh Kent. Noel scored on the play to give Galion the 4-2 advantage.
In the fifth inning, which proved to be about an hour long chunk of the game, both sides would have an offensive influx. It all started when the Cincinnati squad loaded the bases via a single, a walk and a hit by pitch with no outs. An infield fly would mark the first out before an RBI single, a bases loaded walk to score a run and another RBI single delivered three runs across. At that point, Graders manager Taylore Baker made the call to the bullpen for Christian Specht, leaving Krieger still responsible for the three runners on base. Specht got a quick out on a fielder’s choice ground out to Mottice to get the runner at second. The Steam had runners on the corners and two outs before a walk reloaded the bases. Chris Givin delivered a two run single for the Steam’s fifth and sixth runs of the inning. Beaver then knocked a single to right but would be stranded there as a Nowaskie to Smetana to Noel relay got the runner at home to end the inning. After the forgetable top of the fifth, Cincy held an 8-4 lead over Galion.
Galion however would provide some offense of their own in the fifth. After a single by Hettinger, a walk by Nowaskie, a fly out by Hathaway and a single by Giavedoni, Noel recorded his fourth run batted in via a single to score Nowaskie. Giavedoni would score his third run of the night later in the inning after a Kent single. Heading into the sixth, the Steam were leading, 8-6.
Cincy would threaten again in the sixth but would leave two runners in scoring position at inning’s end. Nowaskie knocked another single in the bottom of the frame but, along with Hathaway, would be stranded. Specht also worked a flawless seventh inning and helped Galion to record their first 1-2-3 inning of the night. Kent would get the rally going for Galion with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, delivering a solo blast over the right field “blue monster” to put the Graders within a run, 8-7. Hoover was issued a walk, Mottice knocked a single and Hettinger would deliver an RBI single to score Hoover to knot the score up at eight apiece headed into the eighth.
Brock Balderson then took over on the mound and delivered two innings of flawless work to record the win. Balderson did not allow a hit and struck out three in his time on the rubber. Galion would use small ball to score the eventual winning run in the eighth inning. A walk to Hathaway, a sacrifice bunt by Giavedoni to advance Hathaway to second and walk to Noel set the stage. Smetana would ground into a fielder’s choice, erasing Noel but putting himself on after a throwing error that allowed Hathaway to score Galion’s ninth run and secure the win.
Galion will host the Steam on Friday night at Heddleson Field as well before welcoming the Licking County Settlers to town for a double header on Saturday. The Graders will then travel to Newark for a contest on the Settlers’ home diamond on Sunday.
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