Winston picks up first pro victory

Nathan Winston said he had been aiming for his first professional win for a little while now.

In the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Tiffin Saints, the Ohio Travelers’ right-handed reliever got it.

Winston, who had his left leg amputated when he was a child and pitches with a prosthetic, threw the final three innings of the Travelers 10-inning, 9-6 victory. The Saints won the second game, 3-2.

With the game tied at three, Winston threw back-to-back shutout innings in the eighth and ninth, setting up a six-run burst by his teammates in the top of the 10th.

Winston allowed a two-out, three-run homer to Tiffin’s Wes Patterson, but got the next batter, Shane Klemcke, to ground out.

“It’s pretty special,” Winston said after Game 1. “I’ve been working for it.”

“He’s a bulldog out there,” said Jay Zeiter, the Travelers manager. “Every time I’ve asked him to go out, he wants the ball. Sometimes he wants the ball more than I can give it to him.”

Zeiter said he hasn’t had to use his bullpen much because his starting pitching has been solid. Nonetheless, Winston was called in with the score tied at 3, and – with the help of two double plays – gave the Travelers the opportunity they needed.

“I just kept the ball low and away,” he said.

The Travelers got on the board in the first inning after back-to-back singles by Masa Miyadera and Ray Frias and a double play from Eric Underwood, which scored Miyadera from third.

The game remained 1-0 until the bottom of the fifth.

To that point, the Saints had managed little off Travelers starting pitcher Josh Weber. Weber had faced the minimum through three innings, and in the fourth, worked out of a two-on, two out jam.

In the fifth, Tiffin’s Andruw Azzopardi singled to open the inning. After Justin Cureton flew out, Angel Vargas hit a ground ball to second that Miyadera booted.

Still, it appeared Weber was going to work out of it after getting Ernesto Punales to fly out. But Winder came through with a three-run homer.

It was a big day for Winder, who went 4 for 8 in the doubleheader. But the homer was the only blemish on Weber’s seven innings, and all three runs he allowed were unearned.

The Travelers (11-11) answered in the top of the seventh. Dan Johnston doubled to left, moved to third on a passed ball, then came home to score when Jacob Zeiter – a Buckeye Central graduate and Jay Zeiter’s son – singled, making it 3-2. Corey Metoyer followed with a single, and then with two out, Miyadara slapped a single to left to score Zeiter and tie the score.

The Travelers had a chance to take the lead in the ninth, but Dylan Badura was able to strand a runner at third. The Saints (13-9) also had a runner in scoring position in the ninth, but Winston shut them down.

The Travelers broke the game open in the top of the 10th, as they got RBI hits from Johnston, Kenta Nishii and a sacrifice fly from Corey Metoyer.

“Timely hits in that 10th inning really propelled us to that win,” Jay Zeiter said.

They scored six runs, and then it was up to Winston to finish things off.

“I was just throwing strikes,” he said.

In the second game, Ray Frias hit his second homer in a week, blasting a two-run shot off Zach Botjer to give the Travelers a 2-0 lead.

But that was all Botjer gave up, as he sailed through six innings.

“I hit my spots today,” said Botjer, who didn’t walk a batter in picking up the win.

Botjer hit 93 miles per hour on his fastball in the first inning.

“Usually I throw anywhere from the high 80s to the low 90s,” Botjer said. “In the first inning everything felt good, everything felt smooth.”

The Saints cut the lead in half in the bottom of the inning, scoring a run on a Chris Winder double and a Shane Klemcke RBI fielder’s choice.

The Saints took the lead the next inning on a two-run double by Punales.

“I was looking just to get a ground ball to get the run in,” Punales said. “I missed the first pitch; it was outside … Then (Travelers’ starter Jack Masin) threw me a low fastball. I was looking for that one.”

Punales looped a double to left, scoring John Perea and Evan King.

And that was all the Saints needed.

Botjer pitched six of the game’s seven innings, then Guadalupe Barrera retired the Travelers in the seventh for the save.

“Zach can pitch, and he’s doing a great job for us,” said Saints manager Ryan Parent, who resigned after the game (see related story).

Jay Zeiter said he thought his team could have made a comeback in Game 2, had it just had a few more outs.

“When I was coaching high school, seven innings sometimes seemed like a long time,” Zeiter said. “For this, seven innings doesn’t seem enough. A nine-inning game there, could have been a different story.”