Saints rally, over and over again

Though conceding that the Independent Baseball League still is in its infancy, it’s not an overstatement to claim the Tiffin Saints’ 11-10 win over the Ohio Travelers Monday will go down as one of the wildest in the group’s history.

Twice, the Tiffin Saints were down by three runs with three outs left in the game.

Three times, the Saints were an out away from a loss.

They kept rallying and rallying, forcing Monday’s game with the Ohio Travelers into the 10th inning, the 11th inning, the 12th inning.

By the end of the 11th, Saints’ acting manager Andrew Azzoropardi was ejected for arguing a play at the plate. Three innings earlier, Azzopardi had stepped in when Tiffin manager Ryan Parent was tossed for arguing balls and strikes.

To put that in perspective, consider this: When Parent was asked in his postgame interview who managed the 12th inning for the Saints, he began his answer with: “I think it was…”

In the bottom of the 12th, trailing Ohio 10-9, the Saints were one out away from defeat again, this time with no one on base.

But Chris Winder and Shane Klemcke – who had prolonged the game with a two-out RBI single in ninth to tie things at 5 – each singled off Travelers’ reliever Josh Graves.

That brought up Tyler McIntire.

“I mean, it was great for Chris and Shane to get on for me,” McIntire said. “They’ve been swinging the bat well, and I definitely had to come through with a hit.”

He did. McIntire laced a single to right. In his haste to get to the ball and cut off the tying run, Travelers’ right fielder Anthony Ragos saw the ball slip by him and roll. Winder scored as Ragos retrieved the ball, and Klemcke was able to beat the throw in to score the winning run.

“They took advantage of our only miscue of the game,” said Travelers’ manager Jay Zeiter. “(Ragos) was trying to get to the ball, and maybe, possibly throw the guy out at home.”

The game’s numerous late game dramatics obscured what had been – for seven innings – a tremendous pitcher’s duel between the game’s starters: The Saints’ Zach Botjer and the Travelers’ Jeremy Gooding.

Botjer – who said he was making his first start in more than a year – pitched seven strong innings, allowing four hits, a run, and six strikeouts.

Botjer punctuated his performance by punching out the Travelers’ Kenta Nishii and Anthony Waterloo to end the seventh. He left with a 2-1 lead.

“This guy right here is the one you need to talk to, not me,” Parent said afterward, gesturing to his starter. “He’s the one that kept us in the game.”

Botjer said he was on an 80-pitch count.

“I felt pretty good through the whole game, started tightening up there at the end,” Botjer said. “I told them [in the seventh] I’d give them one more, all I got, and that’s what I did.”

But the Travelers rallied for four runs in the eighth inning off the Saints’ bullpen. Taking a 5-2 lead into the ninth and with Gooding taking the mound, an Ohio win looked like a formality.

The Travelers allowed a two-run bad-hop single to Winder in the fifth, but other than that was brilliant. Through his first eight innings, he allowed only four hits, striking out seven.

“He was tremendous. He had a no-hitter into the fifth,” Zeiter said. “He did everything he could to keep them off balance.”

But the Saints got to him for two singles to start the ninth, starting a three-run rally that sent the game to extra innings.

The teams traded single runs in the 10th. In the 11th, the Travelers’ Cory Willig capped a huge day at the plate with a three run blast that put Ohio up 9-6.

Willig finished with four hits and five RBIs.

But the Saints scored three runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning, tying the game on an RBI double by Tyler Crandell.

The Travelers got a single run in the 12th on a fielder’s choice, before the Saints final comeback.

Travis Smith got the win in relief. Both teams are 6-6.