With less than a week remaining in the regular season, the Galion Graders are still in contention for one of the six playoff berths in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
Galion (12-18) pulled to within three and a half games of the final playoff spot after posting a sweep of Lorain County in a doubleheader on Monday at James D. Heddleson Field in Heise Park. The Graders cruised to a 5-1 victory in the first game and rallied to beat the Ironmen 8-6 in the nightcap.
Six wins in the last 10 games, including four wins in the last six outings, have positioned Galion to control its own destiny in the closing act of the 2015 season. Despite the recent run of good play, Graders head coach Ray Neill said he isn’t focusing on the postseason, choosing instead to follow the old adage of taking one game at a time.
“I’m gonna let you guys talk about (the playoffs),” said Neill. “Right now, for us, it’s just the next game. I’m not even going there with the guys right now. It’s just great job today, take a day off, and let’s go win the next game. The schedule’s in our favor.”
Indeed, five of the remaining seven games on the schedule will be played at Heise Park. Galion travels to Lima on Wednesday, returns home Thursday for two games against Lake Erie, then plays at Lake Erie on Friday. The Graders wrap up the regular season with three straight home games, Saturday and Sunday against Xenia and Monday versus Grand Lake. The game on Monday will begin at 2:05 p.m.
Home sweep home
Galion’s sweep of Lorain County opened with one of the ballclub’s most dominant performances of the season. Despite giving up 10 hits, including four that went for extra bases, the Graders played solid defense and forced the Ironmen to leave 10 baserunners stranded.
Galion’s Trent Downs pitched a complete game to improve his record to 3-1. He struck out five batters and walked only one. He shut out Lorain County for six innings before surrendering the lone run in the top of the seventh. Jeff Edwards doubled to lead off the inning for the Ironmen and scored on a single by Tyler Bires.
Tyler Ocker paced the offense for the Graders, going 2-for-3 with a pair of RBI and a run scored. Nick Riotto went 2-for-4, drove in a run and scored a run. Both of Ocker’s RBI singles and Riotto’s run-scoring basehit came with two outs.
Kevin Shrock, Colton Carney, Alexander Malinsky and Brandon Wright each had a hit. Malinsky, Wright and Brody Basilone each scored a run.
Bires, Jeff Edwards and Cole Nieto each went 2-for-4 for Lorain County. Patrick Higley took the loss, giving up eight hits. He walked five batters and struck out two.
“Trent Downs got it going for us with an outstanding performance in game one. We got some big two-out basehits there,” said Neill. “In the second game, we got down, but we came back. In the one inning, some small ball was good for us again, getting some bunts down and making them make plays. From there, we got some more two-out basehits, and got some more runs.”
The Graders erased an early 2-0 deficit to complete the sweep of the Ironmen. Colonel Crawford product Austin Adams drove in three runs and scored a run, finishing 1-for-4. Kevin Shrock went 2-for-4, scored twice and drove in a run. Dylan Slack finished 1-for-2 with one RBI.
Riotto, Carney, Aaron Caputo and Mark Walton each had a hit. Riotto, Carney, Caputo, Walton and J.T. Core each scored a run.
Kody Brown picked up the win in relief for the Graders. He worked 2-2/3 innings, gave up one run and two hits. Brown, now 1-1, had two strikeouts and one walk.
Brody Basilone earned his second save of the season after pitching the final 2-1/3 innings. He didn’t allow a baserunner and recorded a pair of strikeouts. In his last six appearances, Basilone has given up just one run and three hits, and recorded seven strikeouts against just two walks.
“Kody Brown came in and did a real good job for us, and Brody Basilone came in for us and did a really, really, really good job for us,” Neill said. “Right now, Brody Basilone’s throwing as good as anybody in this league.”
Nick Muse started for Galion and gave up five runs on eight hits in four innings. Only two of the runs were earned. He had one strikeout and one walk.
Dan Whitacre started and took the loss for Lorain County. He worked 5-1/3 innings and gave up all eight runs that Galion scored on seven hits. He had one strikeout and two walks.
Zack Reed led the Ironmen on offense, going 3-for-4. He scored twice and drove in a run. Sam Kohler was 2-for-5 with a RBI. Edwards, Nicholas Barron and Tyler Stephenson each drove in a run.
Help is good
One of the highlights of the game for Galion was a controversial 1-6-3 double play in the eighth inning that erased a scoring chance for Lorain County. But Neill was glad to accept the favor for his team.
“Between me and you, I don’t know that we got either guy out,” Neill joked. “We got a phantom call out there and a bang-bang call over there. But we haven’t gotten those calls all year, so we’re gonna take them. They say they all even out. We got two of them back today and that was a big play for us.
“I think tonight you saw a team that’s still playing hard for their teammates,” Neill added. “I can’t ask for more than that.”
Andrew Carter can be reached at 419-468-1117, ext. 2048. Connect with him on Twitter @ACGalionSports.