MEDINA — Luck was destined to determine the fates of Medina and Mentor as their Northeast Ohio Conference River Division baseball game entered the 10th inning.
The Baseball Gods decided Thursday wasn’t the Bees’ day.
Given new life of sorts after an overturned call on a suicide squeeze attempt, Domenic Dengel delivered an RBI bloop single with the bases loaded to propel the Cardinals to a hard-earned 7-5 victory.
“It definitely hurts losing to a very good team in the 10th inning,” Medina second baseman Brian Letts said. “It hurts real bad, but we get to play then again (today). That’s the good side of this.
“We all know this hurts, and we don’t want to feel this again. We’ve got to come back hungry and hopefully we can get the ‘W.’”
Mentor (3-1, 2-1) loaded the bases with a hit batter, walk and intentional walk against reliever Spencer Aukerman (0-1). Medina then inserted No. 2 starter Matt Whittaker, who got to a 1-1 count against Dengel.
Dengel squared to bunt as teammate Matt Eisworth charged home. The ball then hit Dengel as he initiated the bunt attempt, and he was awarded first base by the home plate umpire.
However, Medina coach Nick Kaplack felt Dengel’s bat made contact with the ball and he was nailed outside of the batter’s box, which would have caused him to be out. After a brief conference, the umpires ruled Dengel’s bat made contact and the ball hit his body while he was in the box, giving him new life with a 1-2 count.
Dengel then flared a blooper over Letts’ head and the next batter, No. 9 hitter Kyle Hagey, capped the scoring with a sacrifice fly that would have ended the inning had Dengel been ruled out.
Neither Kaplack nor Mentor coach Len Taylor, who has more than 300 career wins, protested further following the amended decision.
“The home plate umpire saw it hit (Dengel), but never saw it hit the bat,” Kaplack said. “So, it would be a tough call. No one will ever know if that ball really hit the batter in fair territory.
“That’s baseball luck. That happens.”
The unusual ending was the climax of a gritty back-and-forth game. Medina (3-7, 2-1), which never led, rallied from a 4-0 hole with four runs in the fourth inning, then sent the game to the ninth when Letts’ RBI groundout scored Lucas Goehler, who had reached on a pinch-hit single.
The hyped showdown between Mentor ace and Louisville recruit Kade McClure and Medina’s Austin Havekost didn’t fully take shape until the fifth, when the pair combined to allow just one run on three hits over a 3½-inning span.
McClure faced the minimum over his final 3⅓ innings before exiting in the eighth, while Havekost allowed just one earned run without a strikeout over eight-plus frames before giving way to Aukerman.
The difference was defense, as Medina committed four errors that led to four unearned runs.
“We can’t make errors like we did in this game,” Letts said. “We definitely need more hits. You can’t win games with (five) hits.”
McClure was masterful outside of the four-run fourth, as he allowed just one hit in his six other innings. Catcher Brent Lary got the Bees on the board with a looping RBI single, the second run scored on a throwing error home and Colin Winters and Havekost followed with RBIs.
Mentor then took a 5-4 lead in the eighth on an RBI single by Nick Fillar (2 singles) that scored Sam Vilk (2 singles, 2 runs).
That set up a blown save by the Cardinals’ Brandon Kasberg, who ultimately got the win thanks to Dengel’s second chance.
“We played two one-run games against Mentor last year, and now we played a 10-inning game against a (potential) draft pick (McClure),” Kaplack said. “We had chances to win it many times. They had chances to win it. It came down to a bloop hit with the infield in.
“We’re looking forward to (today) already. This is turning into a war where they beat the heck out of each other but go to the end.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mentor 7, Medina 5 (10 innings)
MENTOR 020 200 010 2 — 7 11 3
MEDINA 000 400 010 0 — 5 5 4
WP — Brandon Kasberg (1-0) 3 innings, 1 run, 1 earned, hit, walk, strikeout. LP — Spencer Aukerman (0-1) 1 1/3 innings, 2 runs, 2 earned, hit, walk, hit by pitch, strikeout. Mentor (3-1, 2-1) — Caleb Potter double; Kasberg single, double; Sam Vilk 2 singles, 2 runs; Matt Eisworth 2 runs; Nick Fillar 2 singles; Kyle Hagey 2 singles. Medina (3-7, 2-1) — Brian Letts 2 singles.