WADSWORTH — One inning Thursday was indicative of how the Wadsworth baseball team has roared to the No. 6 ranking in the Prep Baseball Report Division I state poll.
Posting double-digit runs in the third without an extra-base hit, the Grizzlies handed traditional Suburban League power Tallmadge a rare 14-1 five-inning loss.
Wadsworth (13-1, 8-1), which leads Copley (9-5, 5-3) by 2½ games in the SL standings, sent 17 batters to the plate in the inning while scoring 11 runs on six singles, four walks, one hit batter and three errors by the Blue Devils (6-7, 5-4), who committed seven overall.
“They’re a good team,” said Grizzlies first baseman Kyle Pennington, who was 2-for-3 with three runs. “Whenever you beat them like that, it’s a big deal. They’re one of our rivals, so you always want to beat them.”
Leading 3-0 against Ashland recruit Jason Beaumont (2-2, 5.47 ERA), Wadsworth’s start was innocent when Alex Laikos walked and Adam Dennison bunted him to second.
But four-year starter Aden Campbell, who played with a bum hamstring, reached on an error and the momentum didn’t stop until Tallmadge center fielder Chris Gray robbed a bases-loaded line drive off the bat of pinch-hitter Dylan Palidar.
The 14-0 lead and error-free defense made an easy winner out of ace right-hander Nick Bebout (5-1, 1.63), whose only mistakes were two doubles to left-hander John Rensel.
“I’m just glad we got off to a good start today,” said Grizzlies coach Greg Pickard, whose team has won 18 of its last 19 regular-season games. “It’s been kind of our Achilles’ heel.”
Following Campbell reaching, Pennington walked to load the bases and Wil Rock (1-for-1, 2 walks, 2 runs), Mason Egleston (2-for-2, 2 RBIs) and A.J. Robinson had consecutive RBI singles that combined with an error to make it 7-0.
Greg Young then executed a safety squeeze and Laikos added sacrifice fly before two more runs scored on another outfield error. An RBI single by Pennington, a walk by Egleston and a hit by pitch by Robinson capped the scoring.
The runs were so contagious Riley Campbell (2-for-4, 2 runs) quipped to teammates that he manned the only spot in the lineup that didn’t bat twice.
“We just do the little things,” Pennington said. “So many times we move the runner over, and when we keep doing that, we keep scoring runs.”
While the 11-run third ultimately led to the shortened finish, the momentum was set in place by the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Robinson.
Wadsworth took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI grounder by Dennison that plated pinch-runner Tyler Hevener. The Grizzlies then loaded the bases in the second via Pennington and Egleston singles sandwiched around a Rock walk.
That brought up freshman Robinson, who drilled the first pitch 330 feet to left-center against the wind to make it 3-0.
It was unexpected power from an unexpected source, as Robinson, the smallest player on the team, accounted for Wadsworth’s only extra-base hit.
“I was pretty surprised to see that happen, but I was looking for my pitch to hit,” the smiling center fielder said. “I usually let the first fastball go by, but (Beaumont) threw it perfectly and I just hit it.”
Wadsworth is in prime position for its first SL title since 2004. The only thing the Grizzlies don’t plan on doing is taking Thursday for granted.
“You just take it one game at a time,” Pennington said. “Our next game (Saturday against Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin) is the biggest one of the year.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.