GENOA — A bigger battle may lie ahead come Saturday, but there was plenty on the line Wednesday when Genoa hosted Lake in a key Northern Buckeye Conference baseball battle.
Showing no quit after Lake’s five-run rally led to a 10-6 Flyers lead in the top of the sixth inning, the Comets answered with five runs in the bottom of that inning and held on for an 11-10 victory.
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That loss prevented the Flyers (24-3, 12-1 NBC) from clinching an outright conference title. Genoa (17-6, 10-2) has NBC games remaining against Eastwood and Fostoria, while Lake has one left versus Eastwood.
But both teams are more focused on today’s Division III district semifinals at Defiance, where Lake will face Elmwood at 4:15 p.m., and Genoa will take on Archbold at 6:30.
A win by Lake and Genoa today would set up a district final rematch of 2013, when the Comets beat Lake in advancing to the regional. The district final is at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Today’s tournament games led Genoa coach Ron Rightnowar and Lake coach Greg Wilker to hold back their pitching aces — the Comets’ Luke Rightnowar and the Flyers’ Jayce Vancena — plus limit innings to other top pitchers.
“Obviously both teams were pitching some down-the-line guys because we’re both in the middle of the tournament,” coach Rightnowar said. “So, that affects a lot of things.
“You just try to battle and make those guys work. We had fairly good at-bats today. We didn’t come out of the zone too much, and we had some fight in us today. I liked that. It was good for us to play well against them.”
The result was an offensive free-for-all that saw 72 batters come to the plate against a total of eight pitchers with only one batter striking out.
It took 24 hits to produce the 21 runs, and oddly enough, the pitching victory went to Genoa’s third of three pitchers, Matt Aumiller, who worked just 2/3 of an inning (in the sixth) and allowed three singles, a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly in yielding three of the five runs Lake tallied.
The loss went to Lake’s third pitcher, Connor Bowen, who fared no better after taking the mound with a 10-6 lead. He walked the first two batters, gave up a single to Casey Gose and a two-run single to Logan Scott, then departed after walking Alex Hayes to reload the bases.
Aaron Witt relived for the Flyers, and surrendered consecutive sacrifice flies to Nick Wolfe and Alex Wojciechowski, the latter providing the game-winning run.
“The big thing was, when we were down, we weren’t sitting back on the bench saying, ‘Oh God, it’s over.’ ” Wojciechowski said of the winning rally. “We had a bunch of adrenaline going. We got on our feet and started yelling. When we got to the plate, we took some pitches, and when we saw a good one we swung.”
Wojciechowski then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to earn a save, and keep Genoa’s hopes of an NBC title split alive.
“I knew it was going to be one of those games because both teams are saving their pitching for the tournament,” Wilker said. “Both teams hit the ball well, and we’re two athletic teams.
“Both teams are going to battle for seven innings. It’s a good rivalry. We’ve got a lot of respect for their program, and hopefully it’s mutual.”
Bowen did go 3-for-5 at the plate with two doubles and an RBI in the game. Adam Duncan, Vancena, Anthony Pratt, and Nick Walsh all had two hits for the Flyers, with Walsh producing five RBIs.
Lake had rallied for five runs on five hits in the top of the sixth.
Gose was 3-for-4 for Genoa, and Wojciechowski was 2-for-3 with a double and four RBIs.