Traveling champions

ADRIAN, Michigan – The Ohio Travelers knew from the very beginning of the Independent Baseball League season that they were anything but a favorite.

When you don’t have a home field and all of your games are played as the road team, there certainly is a disadvantage.

But the players used it as motivation.

“Everybody on the team took the attitude that we are the underdogs and we are going to prove ourselves,” said Travelers manager Jay Zeiter.

On Sunday, the Travelers got the ultimate validation.

They beat the Adrian Pioneers – a team that had the best record in the three-franchise IBL – for the second-straight day, winning the best of three championship series two games to none.

The Travelers won 9-4, getting homers from Kenta Nishii and Dan Johnston.

Ohio battled back from deficits of 1-0 (which Nishii erased with his homer) and 3-1, and using a three-run sixth inning to take the lead. Masa Miyadera had an RBI single, then Scott Underwood hit an RBI groundout to tie the game at 3. That brought up Johnston.

“Dan Johnston hit a bomb, I mean it had to be 450 feet,” Zeiter said. “It was just a line drive shot to center field.”

Then, the Travelers took control of the game with a five-run seventh. Anthony Ragos had an RBI bunt single and Nishii singled in two runs in the inning. Underwood added a sacrifice fly, and the Travelers scored their final run on a Pioneer error.

That was enough for Ohio’s pitchers.

Josh Weber started and pitched into the eighth.

“He kept them off balance all day,” Zeiter said of his starter. “They were flailing at things.”

The Pioneers loaded the bases in the eighth with one out, and Zeiter called on reliever Josh Graves. Graves struck out the first batter he faced, then induced a ground out to end the threat.

“The pitching, we didn’t have guys that would blow you away,” Zeiter said. “We had guys that battled you the whole way, and they did so with grit.”

The Pioneers scored an unearned run off Graves in the ninth.

In three playoff games, the Travelers scored 32 runs.

“We had hot bats the whole weekend,” Zeiter said.