The power of 10

If you plan on beating the Ohio Travelers, you better get the job done in the first nine innings. The 10th seems to always belong to the Travelers. For the third straight weekend, the Travelers and Tiffin Saints went to extra innings, where, for the third straight time, the Travelers put up big numbers for the win.

After Tiffin rallied to tie the game in the eighth, Ohio posted three in the 10th to secure the 7-4 win. In their last three extra-innings wins over the Saints, the Travelers have outscored their counterparts by a combined scored of 12-3 in the extra frames.

“Really, we have just really good bats, it seems like,” Travelers designated hitter Jacob Zeiter said when asked what was the secret to his team’s extra-inning magic. “When we get later in games, the better at-bats we have. Really focused in and doing all the little things right it seems like.”

Zeiter delivered perhaps the biggest hit in the 10th inning. The Travelers took the lead after a pair of walks and a bloop single loaded the bases. Dan Johnston put the team ahead with a sac fly. An intentional walk to Kenta Nishii re-loaded the bases for Zeiter, who ripped a single up the middle, scoring two and giving Ohio some insurance.

“Any extra runs you get in the late innings is huge,” Zeiter said. “Really, there in that at-bat, I was just looking to find a pitch I could drive, (got a) first-pitch fastball. And I needed that after having a pretty rough day. So that was a big at-bat for me.”

James Coleman took the mound for the Travelers in the bottom of the 10th, and despite allowing a pair of baserunners, closed the door for the save.

Coleman was supposed to be Saturday’s starter, but due to arm issues, he was switched to a closer’s role. The start went to Nathan Winston, who threw five strong innings, allowing three runs on five hits. Josh Graves took over and gave up one earned run. He was credited with the win. It all added up to what Travelers manager Jay Zeiter called a “team win.”

“We really had a team win there,” he said. “Three great pitching performances, especially since it wasn’t what was planned. Nate Winston goes out there and gives us five strong innings, Graves goes out there and gives us four more and then Coleman at the end there. And that was pretty impressive, holding down that Saints team because they’re an excellent ball team.”

The way the day began, it looked like it might be a rough start for Winston. Tyler Surnbrock and Chris Winder led off with back-to-back singles for the Saints. Surnbrock came around to score the game’s first run on Justin Cureton’s sac fly.

In the Saints’ second, Angel Vargas led off with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored on Tyler Crandell’s single to left.

Winston settled down and kept the Saints off the board until the Travelers tied things up in the fourth. Erik Underwood led off the inning with a single, then Scott Underwood’s ground rule double put runners on second and third with no outs. A sac fly from Johnston scored one and Nishii’s RBI double tied the game.

The Saints though answered in the bottom of the frame when Ernesto Punales singled home Vargas for a 3-2 advantage. The score held until the seventh inning. After the first two batters were retired, Cory Metoyer and Anthony Ragos singled to chase Saints starter Steve Landell from the game. Chris Thomas came on in relief, but the first batter he faced, Anthony Waterloo, singled to tie the game. The Travelers took the lead when Ragos scored off a double steal.

After the game, Saints manager Dustin Ritchie said he was pleased with the effort he got from his pitching staff. Landell went 6 2/3 innings, scattering six hits while striking out seven. Thomas and Dylan Badura kept the Travelers off the board, allowing the Saints to tie things in the eighth.

“Our bullpen did a good job today of keeping us going in the later innings,” Ritchie said. “Starting pitching again was great. Steve threw a great game.”

Efrain Gonzalez led off the inning reaching on an error. He was replaced by pinch runner Daniel Bustamante, who stole second and scored on a single by Crandell.

The Saints had a chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth. Winder led off the inning with a double and moved to third on an infield single from Cureton.

But Graves struck out Bustamante, and then a line shot from Vargas was snagged by Ragos at second base to send the game to extra innings, where the Travelers took over.

“They somehow find a way to put runs on the board in the 10th inning,” Ritchie said. “They did their job. We had a chance in the bottom of the ninth and didn’t make it happen.”

After the game, coach Zeiter said team chemistry helps the team battle back to score dramatic wins.

“We played very well here lately,” he said. “Best thing is the team chemistry here. Everyone gets along very well and we all support each other. Even if somebody makes a mistake, they’re right in there smacking them on the back and getting them going and getting them back ready to go the next at-bat or next inning or whatever the situation may be.”