Saints to make home debut against their neighbors
It’s finally time for a homestand. Sort of.
Tiffin welcomes the professional Independent Baseball League to town today when the Saints host the Ohio Travelers.
Players from both teams call Tiffin home, though only the Saints are officially a Tiffin team.
As their name suggests, the Travelers are a team constantly on the move, though they have the only local players – right-handed pitchers Anthony Sims and Josiah Greenwald are both Columbian graduates, and Buckeye Central graduate Jacob Zeiter is a first baseman and designated hitter who is also the son of manager Jay Zeiter.
But no matter where they hail from, the Saints and Travelers at least get to play in front of their fans this weekend.
“We’re happy to be able to play in Tiffin. We’re hoping we get a lot of people out there supporting us,” Travelers Manager Jay Zeiter said. “It’s going to be a nice rivalry between the Travelers and Saints.”
The IBL has only four teams – the other two are the Marion Shovel City Crawlers and the Adrian (Michigan) Pioneers – but the Saints and the Travelers already have a rivalry locked up because of their familiarity, even though this weekend is the first time they’ll face each other.
“People are going to come there to root for both teams,” Saints Manager Ryan Parent said.
“This is probably the biggest rivalry in the IBL because … we have players who live in the same house on separate teams,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody.”
Fans can get to know the players more by visiting the team websites – tiffinsaints.com and www.ibl-ohiotravelers.com.
The players will get to know each other better starting today when the first of a four-game series begins at 4 p.m. at Heidelberg’s Peaceful Valley.
Two games follow at 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday, with the fourth game Sunday at 2 p.m.
Tickets – cash only – are $5 for adults and $3.50 for youth (17-under) and seniors (55-older), and are for sale at Chamber of Commerce, Bookmyer Printing and GW’s. Tickets are also available at the gate.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Parent said.
“Everybody hears about the team, now it’s an opportunity to see the team. A lot of people have met the players, but haven’t been able to see the team,” he said. “Now’s the time to get to see the team in action.”
The Saints will start Blake Ware on the hill while the Travelers will send out Justin Langhill. Both are righties, but Langhill is a knuckleball specialist.
Langhill is 2-0 for the Travelers and came within two outs of a complete game last weekend in Adrian, but Zeiter did concede the Saints might not be the only ones challenged today.
“We worry about that a little bit, but I’m pretty confident in my catchers. I have two catchers and they’ve both caught him before so they’re used to him,” Zeiter said. “I think if we play stout defense and keep people off the bases, we should be in pretty good shape.”
Parent also has faith in his own pitcher.
He called Ware a smart pitcher who uses good location and command to force batters to hit the ball on the ground.
That and finding a way to hit a ball that bobs and weaves like a prize fighter so they move runners around the bases will be critical for the Saints, Parent said.
“Mostly what’s been killing us is not taking advantage of runners on bases and giving up walks. The problem is, if we walk one or two batters and give up a few hits, we let them score runs, and we have to continue to get in the zone and get the ball down,” he said. “If we do that, we’ll be fine.
“We can’t continue to leave runners on base as we have been. We just need to focus on fundamental baseball,” Parent said. “If we do that, I think we’ll win.”
And gain more fans.
“We’re looking forward to the Tiffin community coming out to support us,” Parent said. “I know we’re competing against the St. Mary’s Festival, but we’re hoping for a good crowd. They’re going to get an opportunity to see what we’re about.”