Dragons rally for win over McLane in Region 6 opener

Warren Area High School shortstop Ryan Rafalski forces out General McLane’s Nick Renick before throwing to first to complete a double play and finish off Warren’s 5-4 comeback in their Region 6 opener. Rafalski also had the game-tying hit in the fifth inning that chased GM starter Derek Fay.

When they’re hitting the ball hard and the hits aren’t coming, there’s no panic from the Warren baseball team – they know they will come eventually.

That was evident in Monday’s Region 6 opener against General McLane. Lancers starter Derek Fay kept the Dragon offense at bay through four innings, but that was it, as the Dragons scored four runs in the fifth, rallying from a 3-run deficit for a 5-4 win.

“We just kept saying keep hitting the ball hard and we’ll find those holes,” said Warren catcher Aidan Morrison, who had the first Dragon RBI of the game on a bases-loaded walk in the third. “In the fifth inning, we seemed to find them. We were hitting the ball hard the whole game.”

The Dragons rallied, and Hunter Loomis came on in relief of Mitch Grosch to earn his first varsity win.

Loomis entered with the Dragons trailing 4-1, a runner on second and one out in the fifth and retired the first four batters he faced.

Warren’s Austyn Cummings fist bumps Ryan Rafalski after Cummings scored on Micah Passmore’s base hit in the fifth inning.

“This is really his first year being a pitcher and he just came in there and hit his spots,” said Morrison, the Dragons’ catcher. “He’s doing well. He came into a tough situation and made the most of it.”

Grosch pitched well in the start

but was a bit unlucky. While the Dragons were hitting the ball hard and had little to show for it early, McLane, despite Grosch striking out seven, found some holes, including three-straight RBI singles in the third from Nick Renick, Justin Barstow and Chance Hoehn to race out to a 3-0 lead.

“Mitch threw well,” said Warren coach Rick Eaton. “They (GM) have a nice approach at the plate. When they get a fastball they put it in play.”

Added Morrison: “Mitch was amazing. His breaking ball is one of the best around. He really commanded it. It was causing them fits, they were just finding little holes.”

James Swanson and Loomis both reached to start the bottom half of the third and Morrison drew his bases-loaded walk with two outs to get Warren (3-1 overall, 1-0 Region 6) on the board.

Warren’s Matt Loomis delivers a pitch during the sixth inning of Monday’s game against General McLane. Loomis pitched 2 1/3 shutout innings to earn the win in relief.

Micah Passmore, who had a pair of hits and hit the ball hard every time he came up, was robbed by center fielder Matt Mountain on a ball that would have cleared the bases had it dropped.

“We hit some line drives that were right at somebody,” Eaton said. “Their center fielder and shortstop both made huge plays to keep us from big innings.”

But the Dragons, whose vaunted lineup is well-documented, did get that big inning in the fifth.

Austyn Cummings led off the frame with a double, Grosch drew the second of his three walks and Morrison had a hard-hit single to load the bases for Passmore, who hit a frozen rope that, coupled with a fielding error, brought in a pair to make it 4-3.

Ryan Rafalski followed with a line-drive single that tied the game and chased Fay. Eli Buto came and Ben Berdine greeted him with a sacrifice fly, which ultimately turned out to be the game-winning run.

Warren’s Ben Berdine delivers what turned out to be the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly in the fifth inning.

The inning could have been even bigger for the Dragons, but Loomis lined into a tough-luck double play.

“He has a little break on his fastball,” noted Morrison of Fay. “He’s a good athlete, he’s going to Slippery Rock to play. He knows what he’s doing out there, he hit his spots, but once we got to him we got to him pretty good in the fifth inning.”

The Dragons were prevented insurance runs in the sixth when Morrison came on with two on and one out and lined into a double play, with Lancers (2-3, 0-1) shortstop Matt Leehan making a diving catch on yet another hard-hit ball.

“When you play at the 4A and above level, you have athletes out there,” Eaton said. “The ball is going to be in play a lot.”

After recording the first two outs in the top of the sixth, Loomis yielded back-to-back singles, but got Fay to strikeout to end the threat, prompting a fist pump from Morrison.

Warren catcher Aidan Morrison slides to scoop up a swinging bunt.

“I was confident in him going in there and throwing well,” Eaton said.

With one on and one out in the seventh, Loomis induced a ground ball to short, which Rafalski was able to turn into a double play to end the game.

Winning the region is high on Warren’s list of goals this season, and they know taking care of business early in the season is key.

“Last year we dropped an early one to Corry that we shouldn’t have,” Morrison said. “We’re just trying to win every region game. We want to have the best road possible to states.”

– – –

GENERAL MCLANE (4)

Leehan ss 4-1-3-0, Mountain cf 2-1-1-0, Fay p-1b 4-0-0-0, Renick c 3-2-3-0, Bastow dh 4-0-2-2, Hoehn 3b 4-0-2-1, Myers lf 3-0-0-0, Buto 2b-p 3-0-0-0, Walbridge 1b 2-0-0-0, Johnson 1b-2b 1-0-0-0, Totals 30-4-11-3

WARREN (5)

Baldensperger cf 3-0-1-0, Cummings lf 4-1-1-0, Grosch p-2b 0-1-0-0, Morrison c 3-0-1-1, Passmore 3b 3-1-2-2, Rafalski ss 3-0-1-1, Berdine 1b 2-0-1-1, Swanson rf 2-1-1-0, Loomis dh-p 3-0-1-0, Gustafson 2b 0-0-0-0, Totals 23-5-9-5

Double Plays: GM 3, Warren 1. 2B – Baldensperger (W), Cummings (W), Berdine (W), Leehan (G), Bastow (G). SF – Berdine (W). HBP – Grosch (by Fay).

General McLane 003 010 0 – 4 11 2

Warren 001 040 X – 5 9 2

IP H R ER BB SO

General McLane

Fay (L, 1-1) 4+ 8 5 5 5 1

Buto 2 1 0 0 1 1

Fay pitched to five batters in the fifth

Warren

Grosch 4 1/3 8 4 3 3 7

Loomis (W, 1-0) 2 2/3 3 0 0 0 2

– – –

JV: Warren 10, GM 0, 6 innings

Nine different Dragons recorded hits in a 10-0 JV win.

Dylan Maeder drove in two runs and also pitched three shutout innings in the win. Berdine, Ryan Arnold and Tyler Gustafson all pitched a scoreless inning as well.

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