YORK TWP. — The combination of beating perennial Patriot Athletic Conference power Keystone on Friday, knowing its tournament opener was 24 hours away and playing all 11 seniors in the final regular-season home game nearly bit Buckeye’s baseball team in the worst way.
Somehow, some way, the sleep-walking Bucks overcame every obstacle.
The loosey-goosey bunch that prides itself on drama did it again Monday by rallying three times to defeat archrival Black River 4-3 in a 2½-hour, eight-inning PAC Stars Division game.
The Bucks (16-7, 12-2) can clinch their first division title since 2009 with a win at Oberlin on Wednesday or by taking down the Pirates (9-15, 4-10) on Friday.
“I’d describe it as a nail-biting game. It was very emotional,” first baseman Nico Galizio said. “That’s what this team’s known for — coming back from behind and coming through in the big moments.
“It’s so many emotions going on at once. We just won our game against Keystone, so it’s hard not to look ahead (to St. Vincent-St. Mary today in a Division II sectional final). We’ve got to learn to keep our head in the game.”
Galizio ended the sunny but nippy 49-degree afternoon with his second RBI single to score Joe Bruening, who had singled to right, off soft-tossing but efficient Justin Campbell (2-2) in the bottom of the eighth.
Following the game-long theme of weirdness, Galizio unsuccessfully protested that he was hit by the first pitch of the at-bat. That ball went to the screen, allowing Bruening to scurry to second.
Two pitches later, Galizio ripped a single up the middle. Center fielder Nick Filak’s throw was high and Bruening scored easily.
“I’ve never been one to want to walk,” Galizio said after joking about what he felt was a blown call. “I’ve always wanted to get up there and hit.”
Galizio’s theatrics capped a back-and-forth battle over the final four-plus innings.
Black River, which lost its early lead on Galizio’s first RBI base knock, went up 2-1 on a bases-loaded walk by Derek Hawley in the fifth. The Pirates then got a momentum boost after Campbell got out of a jam in the bottom half of the inning.
Luckily for Buckeye, relief pitcher Kyle Friel (5-3) went 1-2-3 in the sixth, giving way for the Bucks to tie the game on three errors and an infield RBI single by Scott Cloudy.
Scrappy Black River refused to yield, as Andrew Vaughn (2-for-4, 2 runs) singled, went to second on a wild pitch, moved to third on a Glen Crabtree sacrifice and came home on a smashed single by Campbell that one-hopped the right-field fence.
Things looked bleak for Buckeye in the seventh. Robbie Nonamaker walked and eventually moved to third, but there were two outs. Friel then blooped a ball into shallow center that found grass between Filak, shortstop Vaughn and second baseman Tyler Sexton to give the Bucks yet another life.
“I just went up there looking for a base hit,” Friel said. “I knew we had Robbie on third, and I just knew I had to get him in to tie it.”
Friel grinded again in the top of the eighth. No. 9 hitter Sean Holly singled to center and Filak walked, but Friel induced Vaughn into a grounder to shortstop Nonamaker, who entered the game in the fifth when Friel moved to the mound, to end the threat.
“We really just stuck it out at the end,” Friel said. “We used teamwork and focused in. We knew what we had to do. If we had lost, that would have been big.”
Friel, Bruening and Galizio, the Nos. 2, 4 and 5 hitters, had six of the Bucks’ eight hits, while Vaughn and Campbell had four of the Pirates’ five.
• Over his last two starts, Campbell has a 20-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He fanned 14 and allowed zero earned runs May 3 in a loss to Fairview.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.