Devin Vargas, the Toledo heavyweight boxer who competed for the United States in the Summer Olympics at Athens, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before last night's Hens' game.
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For one game at least, there would be a positive ending for the struggling Mud Hens.
Brian Schmack made sure of that last evening in what would prove to be a 3-0 Toledo victory over Columbus at Fifth Third Field.
Nursing a 2-0 lead with one out in the sixth inning, the Toledo righthander came on in relief of Hens' starter Matt Roney and the bases loaded with Clippers.
Schmack's first two pitches to Felix Escalona were balls, but on the third offering the Columbus shortstop grounded to Hens' third baseman Greg Norton, setting off an inning-ending 5-4-3 double play.
That one play was crucial as Toledo broke a four-game losing skid and won for just the seventh time in its last 35 starts. After leading the West Division by 3 1/2 games July 28, the Hens have fallen to near the bottom of the International League standings.
"I just tried to pick the team up," said Schmack, who also struck out two in 12/3 innings. "We haven't been winning too many games. If we get the double play, who knows? Maybe we hold on and win."
Returned to Toledo from Double-A Erie on Aug. 3, Schmack has allowed just one earned run in his last five appearances. He's struck out 11 in that 14 inning span.
"I don't know what's happened, but he's throwing the ball much better," Hens manager Larry Parrish said. "Tonight's the first time I really tested him in that situation, with the bases loaded, and he did a good job for us."
All the scoring Toledo would need came in the third.
The Hens had runners reach second base in each of the first three innings and finally pushed a pair of runs home in the third. Norton's two-out double off the wall in left advanced Guillermo Rodriguez, who had walked, to third.
The next batter, Warren Morris, then lofted a 1-1 offering from Clippers starter Alex Graman down the right field line. It dropped in for a two-base hit and the Hens had a 2-0 edge.
It was a lead that Schmack made stand up.
NOTES: Roney struck out four and allowed six hits in improving his record to 2-1. ... U.S. Olympic heavyweight boxer Devin Vargas threw out the first pitch before the game. In a ceremony before the game started, the Toledoan was presented with a framed portrait by The Blade and a Hens jersey by the team. ... Toledo's season-ending three-game set with Columbus continues tonight at 6 at Fifth Third. Rick Kirsten (3-3, 6.31) is slated to face the Clips' Buddy Carlisle (7-5, 4.33).
Contact Dan Saevig at: email@example.com.
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