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MILLBURY — With first place in the Northern Buckeye Conference baseball standings on the line, Lake and visiting Genoa staged a classic pitcher’s duel Friday.
In the end, the host Flyers caught the last break and made it pay off in a 2-1 walk-off victory.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Lake coach Greg Wilker said. “You look and see the stands are filled. It was an exciting game to play, and two outstanding teams. Their kids made some tremendous plays out there in the field, and we made some real nice plays out there too.
“You just feel bad for the team that’s going to lose. You know it’s going to be a tough one to lose.”
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Lake (17-2, 6-0 NBC) got a leadoff walk in the bottom of the seventh inning from Brad Ackerman, who was bunted to second by Joel Densic. After a wild pitch from Comets junior starter Luke Rightnowar sent Ackerman to third, Aaron Witt’s ground ball to Genoa second baseman Cody Pickard got Ackerman home ahead of the tag with the winning run.
“We ran the contact play there, and Brad Ackerman got a great jump,” Wilker said. “A lot of kids wouldn’t have made that play there. Aaron Witt just hit it hard enough in the right spot there.”
That play gave the pitching victory to Lake’s hard-throwing, 6-foot-5, 220-pound ace Jayce Vancena (5-0, 0.20 ERA), who yielded just two hits and struck out eight Comets.
“Our team battled the whole game,” Vancena said. “We put the bat on the ball and made things happen. We got baserunners and put pressure on them, and luckily a few good things happened. We pulled it through.”
Vancena helped his cause an inning earlier, setting the stage for the dramatic win.
In the sixth, Lake’s Adam Duncan reached when he grounded to shortstop Alex Hayes, whose throw pulled first baseman Logan Scott off the bag.
Vancena came to the plate with two outs after back-to-back groundouts to Pickard brought Duncan around to third. The University of Michigan recruit and possible MLB draft selection delivered a clutch line single to right-center to tie the game.
Genoa (9-5, 6-1) had gotten its lone run in the fourth inning, thanks to three off-the-mark throws by the Flyers.
First, Vancena hit leadoff hitter Casey Gose with a pitch. An errant pickoff attempt sent Gose to second base, and Gose went to third when Flyers catcher Nick Walsh had to throw to first to complete a strikeout.
When Hayes struck out for what would have been the third out, Walsh again had to pick up the ball out of the dirt.
He threw wildly to first, allowing Hayes to reach safely and Gose to score.
Vancena threw 56 of his 78 pitches for strikes. Rightnowar, who did not record a strikeout, was even more efficient, throwing 46 of his 68 pitches for strikes. He gave up four hits and two walks.
“Very often in games like this it’s who makes that critical mistake,” Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar said. “They made a couple, we made a couple, and we made one more than they did.
“Jayce is excellent. His ability is as good as anybody’s in the area. He has real good poise and obviously great stuff, and Luke just does what he does. He competes and throws the ball in there with a little wiggle on it, and he knows what he’s doing. He’s going to keep us in it. They’re both real good competitors.”