By Andrew Carter

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GALION — A collective sigh of relief was followed by smiles all around.

That was the reaction on Thursday evening at James D. Heddleson Field in Heise Park after the Galion Graders shut out the Licking County Settlers, 4-0. The victory put the brakes on a seven-game losing skid for Galion.

In the minds of the Graders (5-13), the win just might be the spark the team needs to make a run in the second half of the Great Lakes League season.

“It felt good to break that streak,” said Graders starting pitcher Will Ore. “It was like having a piano on our back the last couple of games. It feels really good.”

Ore (3-2) earned the win after working six scoreless innings for Galion. He held the Settlers to just two hits and finished the evening with one strikeout and three walks. Ore escaped a bases-loaded pickle in the sixth inning when Jake Krupar tracked down a line drive in left field off the bat of Licking County’s Chad Wagner for the final out. Despite the tough circumstances, Ore said he wanted to remain aggressive against Wagner.

“Krupar got me out of it with a really good play,” Ore said. “I didn’t want to walk in a run or hit the guy, so I just had to attack him. That was the game plan all night, so that’s what I did.”

Galion’s bullpen kept the shutout intact after Ore left the game in the seventh. Ben Hamilton walked two batters, but held Licking County without a hit in one and two-thirds innings. Brody Basilone pitched the final inning and a third and didn’t allow a baserunner. He struck out one batter.

“Our pitchers did a really good job tonight,” said Graders pitching coach Taylore Baker. “We’ve struggled all year with us putting up two or three runs and then giving up runs. Tonight our pitchers kept putting up zeroes and giving our offense opportunities. It worked out for us tonight.”

Despite coming up with just seven hits, the Graders manufactured runs in the second, third, fourth and eighth innings, respectively, to pick up the win. J.T. Core went 2-for-4 and drove in a run. Dylan Slack, Nick Riotto and Zack DeThomasis each had a RBI.

Colton Carney, Mark Walton, Tyler Ocker and Kevin Shrock scored the Graders runs. Carney betled a double for the game’s only extra basehit. Galion left 12 runners on base.

Zak DeCamp and Kyle Holbrook each had a single for Licking County. The Settlers (9-10) left eight runners stranded.

Starting pitcher Heath McRae (0-2) took the loss. He gave up two runs on three hits in three innings of work. McRae recorded three strikeouts and three walks. Altogether, Licking County used five pitchers in the game.

Baker said the comprehensive win over the three-time defending Great Lakes League champion should give Galion a boost of confidence as the season moves into its stretch run.

“I think this could be our turning point right now,” Baker said. “Just everybody buying into what we’re doing. We’ve been close in each of the seven games that we lost. Beating a team like Licking County is a big thing for us.”

Galion and Licking County will square off again on Friday at Heise Park. First pitch is 7:05 p.m.

The Graders head to Athens on Saturday to tangle with the Southern Ohio Copperheads, and then return home Sunday for the second game of the series with Southern Ohio. First pitch on Sunday is at 7:05 p.m. Fireworks will follow the game.

Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.