Saints hold off Travelers

Pitching has ruled the weekend as the Tiffin Saints and Ohio Travelers met in a series to determine first place in the Independent Baseball League. So when his team took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning, Saints manager Ryan Parent felt confident that score could hold up.

It’s easy to see why when his team pitches like it did Sunday.

Blake Ware started and tossed seven solid innings of five-hit ball, Michael Romano threw a perfect inning of relief and Wally Barrera closed the door in the ninth preserving the 2-1 Saints win.

“Another day at the ball park,” Ware said. “Good defense, and it was a good game. Travelers always play well against us. It’s always pretty much a brotherly rivalry to an extent. But a 2-1 game, that’s always a good baseball game.”

“Our bullpen’s starting to come around now and our starting pitching is starting to do their jobs,” Parent added. “Blake Ware is definitely coming down to be our ace right now. We had some key hitting we feel and we should’ve put up more than we did. We left some opportunities slip by us. We had some untimely errors. Other than that, we were able to stay in the game. Our pitching kept them off the bases for the most part. We were able to get out of jams and got just enough runs around to win the ballgame.”

The Travelers had one final chance in the ninth inning when Anthony Ragos reached on an error and moved to third after Efrain Gonzalez singled.

But Barrera snagged a comebacker off the bat of Cory Metoyer starting a 1-6-3 double play to end the game.

“Our closer came in, Wally came in and closed the ball game out for us,” Parent said. “He got himself in a jam, but was able to get out of it by getting that guy to roll over.”

Ware allowed one run and struck out four picking up the win for the Saints. He credited a pair of pitches that worked well for him on the day, and praised the effort of the defense behind him.

“Fastball and slider,” Ware said when asked what was working for him. “Didn’t really use my change-up much, because I was keeping them off balance with the slider. Defense to, that always helps. I only struck out four, so, you got to have good defense for the win.”

You also need to get some runs on the board any way you can, which is what the Saints did when they posted a run in the first without the benefit of a hit. Chris Winder reached base on an error, stole second and moved to third off a wild pitch.

Winder came home when Travelers second baseman Masa Miyadera lost a pop-fly in the sun. Miyadera recovered to get a force out at second base, but it allowed Winder to cross home for the game’s first run.

The score held until the fourth when the Travelers tied things up. Erik Underwood led-off the inning with a single then after another pair of hits, scored on a fielder’s choice from Jacob Zeiter.

Tiffin answered right back in the bottom of the inning. A base hit from Andruw Azzopardi started a two-out rally. Justin Cureton followed with another single then Angel Vargas singled home Azzopardi for what turned out to be the game-winning run.

“I was looking for a curveball and he gave me one,” Vargas said. “Actually it was a 2-2 count. I just said to myself I was just going to wait for that pitch. It was right there at my hands. I did my job. I’m just blessed for that.”

There was still a lot of baseball left to play, but Parent said he was confident his pitching staff could hold the lead.

“After yesterday morning’s game, I figured it was going to hold up,” he said. “It was either going to be tied or we were going to be ahead. Yesterday we won a 2-1 game also. It’s coming together for us. I’m gaining more confidence in our bullpen and definitely more confidence in our starting rotation.”

For Travelers manager Jay Zeiter, the day was one of missed opportunities.

“A pop fly in the sun causes a run to get scored. That really obviously hurt us there,” he said. “An error leading to that guy even being on base, they got one run that way. Then three straight two-out hits to score their other run. We had guys at third with less than two outs at least twice and couldn’t score. So it was a game of missed opportunities for us.”

With the win, the Saints move a game ahead of the Travelers for first place in the IBL. The teams close out their series today at 5:30.