June 25, 2016

Mostly sunny

Baseball: Blue Devils sweat out key victory

BRUNSWICK — Maybe it was a blessing in disguise that Todd Winston missed Brunswick’s baseball game with North Royalton due to the flu Wednesday.

Had the sixth-year coach been in the dugout, Gerry Salisbury would have elevated his blood pressure to dangerous levels.

Gerry Salisbury

The All-Gazette left-hander consistently put runners on base but kept them from scoring with impressive clutch pitching as the Blue Devils held on for a 3-2 win in Northeast Ohio Conference River Division action.

A day after needing nine innings to dispose of the underrated Bears (3-13, 0-7), Salisbury and Brunswick (12-6, 5-2) escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the seventh inning to remain one game back of division-leading Strongsville.

“They all call me (former Indians closer) Bob Wickman, and they did it again in the seventh,” Salisbury joked. “I just like to make it interesting and give people a little heart trouble.”

Salisbury allowed 11 hits in front of scouts from Division I Wright State and D-II Ohio Dominican, but walked just one and saw six of his eight strikeouts come with runners in scoring position.

None of his pitches were more important than in the seventh.

With the Bears down 3-1, No. 7 hitter Bryan Bielak led off the frame with a single up the middle. Nate Kocan followed with a walk, giving way for Branden Walsh to push a sacrifice bunt into no-man’s land between Salisbury, first baseman Kyle Wheeler and second baseman Kyle Burson.

The bases were loaded with leadoff man Nick Gatins at the dish. Salisbury regained his composure and struck out the senior center fielder with an 85-mph fastball on the outside corner, then induced Evan Wilmann and Eric White into fielder’s choices.

A run scored on Wilmann’s grounder to shortstop Kyle Michalik, but it ultimately didn’t matter on a beautiful 80-degree afternoon when the Bears were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“If we beat Strongsville twice (next week), the conference is ours no matter what. We get at least a share,” Salisbury said. “We’re fired up about that.”

All the support Salisbury needed came from his own bat (2-for-3, run) and the inexperienced but lightning-quick outfield of Joey Verbiak (left), Ryan Kuntz (center) and right fielder Gary Clift Jr. (right).

Salisbury kicked off Brunswick’s three-run second inning with a single. Wheeler then reached on an error, and Clift blooped an RBI single to left. Verbiak scored Wheeler on a groundout, while Kuntz’s RBI single made it 3-0.

The outfielders also made their presence known defensively. Verbiak held Walsh to a single on a drive into the gap in the third — Walsh ended the inning stranded at third — and added a full-sprint grab in the fifth with Walsh at third base. Meanwhile, Clift gunned down Adam Vasil at the plate in the fourth.

Their performance was doubly clutch considering Brunswick’s 1-4 hitters — Burson, Michalik, Brian Lees and Corey Welsh — were a combined 2-for-12.

“We’re real proud of (Clift),” Salisbury said, “and I have all the confidence in (Verbiak). He’s a great defensive left fielder and he can put the ball in play and do good things.”

Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.

Albert Grindle About Albert Grindle

Albert Grindle is a sportswriter for the Gazette. He can be reached at 330-721-4043 or agrindle@medina-gazette.com.