Saints light up Travelers in home opener

It took until the fourth inning Friday for a scoreboard malfunction to get fixed in the Tiffin Saints home opener against the Ohio Travelers. But even when the scoreboard wasn’t on, the Saints were lighting it up. Tiffin jumped out to a 4-0 lead after three innings, then once the scoreboard became operational, the hometown Saints tested how much offense the board could handle.

A run in the fourth and five more in the fifth blew things open, and opening day for the Saints was a success with a 10-1 victory.

The offensive surge was supported by a strong outing on the mound from Blake Ware, who tossed seven innings, scattering six hits and one run. He struck out eight.

“We came out; played real well,” Saints manager Ryan Parent said. “We did our fundamentals. We pitched good. We kept the runners off the bases and we fielded the balls we had to field.”

And they also hit the ball. A lot.

Everyone in the starting lineup had a base hit and eight of the nine scored runs. And the one that didn’t score, Angel Vargas, drove in three runs.

But even on a day when everyone was getting involved in the offense, Tyler McIntyre’s day stood out among the rest. McIntyre, a two-time All-Northeast Conference selection while playing collegiately at Central Connecticut State, was perfect at the plate going 5-for-5, doubling and driving in a pair.

“I was seeing the ball well today,” McIntyre said. “It’s just good to get a win; get off that 3-game snide. It’s good to get the win.

“It was just one of those days. I’ve been seeing the ball well, just finally found some holes today.”

Parent said McIntyre was stroking the ball well.

“Tyler was on fire tonight,” Parent added. “He did very good. (I was) very impressed. He hit a couple gaps and was doing real well. And he was solid at first base too.”

McIntyre got the first two Saints rallies started. With two outs in the first, McIntyre and Justin Cureton picked up back-to-back singles. Tyler Surnbrock next reached on an error, loading the bases for Tyler Crandell who doubled homed the game’s first two runs with a shot down the fight field line.

McIntyre doubled to start things off in the third inning. Cureton walked and Surnbrock singled to again load the bases. This time it was Vargas coming through with a single that plated two.

In the fourth, Evan King singled, stole second then came home on a single by McIntyre.

“This time we came up with clutch hitting,” Parent said. “Before, earlier in the season, last weekend, we were just leaving an army on base. So we’d get people on base, then we wouldn’t do anything with them. Now we got people on base and we were bringing them in. That’s good. We had some timely stealing. We were doing pretty good. We were able to read, get ahead in the count and we were able to take advantage of our baserunning.”

The Saints put the game out of reach in the fifth. Surnbrock led of the inning with a double and later scored after a sacrifice-fly from Vargas. Chris Winder singled home two, McIntyre had another RBI single and Cureton walked with the bases loaded to finish off the Saints’ scoring.

On the day, the Saints amassed 17 hits.

“A lot of flares fell,” Travelers manager Jay Zeiter said. “They hit a couple balls pretty hard, but as a whole, I didn’t think they rocketed the ball or anything. Just found green and that happens in baseball sometimes. They had, I don’t know how many two-out hits against our starter, and that just caused us to get behind. And we couldn’t do much with their pitcher. Combination of both things leads to a big loss.”

Ware meanwhile was in control against Travelers hitters all day. He didn’t allow his first hit until the fourth inning, and prevented the Travelers from mounting any serious rallies.

“Felt pretty good today,” he said. “Coming down off five days rest, skip limited me to seven innings and got my pitch count good, but other than that I felt pretty good, had a good day.”

Parent said it was nice turnaround for Ware.

“Last time he had kind of a rough outing, but today he was real solid,” Parent said of his starter. “He was able to get ahead in the count early. He was able to pound away. He was throwing his pitches for location and he was doing real well.”

The Travelers lone run came in the fifth. After two walks, Masa Miyadera singled home Anthony Waterloo to stop the shutout.

Ware was also the beneficiary from some solid defense, especially out of shortstop Ernesto Punales. The defensive highlight of the day came in the seventh inning. The Travelers had two on and one out and Anthony Ragos sent a shot up the middle. Punales dove to knock the ball down, flipped it to second baseman King, who then fired it to first to complete the double play, and elicit a “Wow” from the stadium PA announcer.

“Ernesto is a solid shortstop,” Parent said. “He fields his position very well. He played very good today.”

A good crowd came out to Heidelberg’s Peaceful Valley Friday for the Saints’ home opener, and the Saints were happy they could treat them to a good show on the field.

“Always important to put on a show, especially to get a win,” Ware said. “First home crowd, you always want to show the locals what we’re made of. I believe we did.”

The Saints and Travelers are back in action today in a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m.