YORK TWP. — A 1-3 record wasn’t what Buckeye coach Mike Davis wanted out of a four-day trip to Oak Ridge, Tenn., last week.
Since their return from The Volunteer State, however, the Bucks’ chemistry is starting to shine.
A day after rallying to beat Lutheran West, Buckeye pulled the trick again Thursday in a 4-3 win over archrival Black River in Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division action.
“The Tennessee trip has really brought these guys together as a team,” Davis said. “It’s really been nice when they’re picking it up on the bench and stuff like that. They have little chants and little sayings, and it really adds to the whole experience.
“They’re a great group of guys to be around. There’s no doubt about that. I’m just glad we’re putting it together on the baseball field.”
The Bucks (6-5, 4-1) had their gung-ho attitude tested when the Pirates (3-6, 2-4) took a 3-2 lead in the fourth inning. Through it all, Buckeye was upbeat and having fun, which ultimately led to a win that keeps it ½ game behind Keystone in the division race.
Cory Schultz began the Bucks’ rally in the fifth by reaching on an error and stealing second. Tyler Nichols grounded into a fielder’s choice as Sam Kraus was thrown out at home, but Black River starter Todd Gentile (0-1) walked James Vasicek (double) to load the bases.
Austin Friel tied the game by having a pitch graze off his helmet, and Scotty Cloudy brought in the go-ahead score on a groundout.
“We try not to rely on errors and hoping they make a mistake and hoping that they walk us,” Davis said with a grin. “But anytime we get on base, a lot of our guys can steal bases. We breach the finer points of baserunning and learn how to take the extra base.”
Buckeye finished the game with six stolen bases, including three by senior Ryan Ackim and a pair by Cory Schultz. Three of its four runs advanced an extra base due to a swipe, and the Bucks pulled off a pair of double steals to negate double-play opportunities.
The final two innings were suspenseful, to say the least.
In the sixth, the Pirates had runners on third and first with two outs, but coach Dozier Hendershot and Nick Sas crossed up the signs. Sas took off for second and Buckeye starter Nichols (3-1) calmly stepped off the rubber and easily caught Sas stealing to end the inning.
The same situation came through again in the seventh. This time, Nichols struck out pinch hitter Brandon Tomes on a very high fastball to end the game.
“I just threw strikes, tried to hit my spots and get outs,” said Nichols, who gave up six hits and struck out eight. “My defense played good behind me today.”
For Black River, which lost its third straight, it was a matter of clutch hitting. The Pirates had plenty of baserunners, but only Jackson Weinzatl (2 singles) and Justin Walter managed RBI.
Gentile was a tough-luck loser despite a gritty effort. The right-hander allowed two earned runs on six hits and struck out three.
“We couldn’t get the hit we needed,” Hendershot said. “We made a baserunning mistake, which was my fault. We had a JV kid (Nick Sas) and I didn’t go over a couple of things with him.
“Todd pitched a good game. We just didn’t hit the ball good enough to win. That’s been the problem the past couple of games.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.