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Saturday, April 22nd, 2017

Top Dogs

Celina edges Defiance 1-0 in key WBL battle

By Gary R. Rasberry
DEFIANCE - The way Seth Lonsway and Austin Taylor were pitching, one run would suffice in Friday's big Western Buckeye League baseball battle between Celina and Defiance.
That run came in the top of the sixth inning when Jake Smalley's bloop single allowed Kole Murlin to score. Lonsway and Shawn Rose completed the 1-0 shutout victory for Celina at Booster Field.
Celina, ranked 11th in the first Division II coaches' poll, goes to 12-1 with the win and 5-0 in the WBL. Defiance, ranked 14th in Division II, had its six-game winning streak snapped in falling to 10-4 and 3-1.
"How many games against (Defiance) have been one run? How many games this season have been one run?" Celina coach Andy Mikesell said.
Lonsway, who beat Defiance as a sophomore and lost a 2-0 tournament game last season, was good but far from being as sharp as he has been at times this season. Making the start after last pitching April 13 against Bath, the Ohio State-committed lefty struck out nine and scattered just two hits, but he also walked five, nearly doubling his season walk output coming into the game of six.
For the first time this season, Lonsway was challenged. He faced several instances when Defiance had two baserunners on with one-or-fewer outs.
Each time, though, Lonsway either got a strikeout to get out of the jam or enticed an infield pop-up.
"He made the pitches when he had to," Mikesell said of Lonsway. "(Defiance) had a great game plan by playing small-ball. We had a feeling they would probably do that and we worked hard on our bunt coverage in practice and it paid off for the most part.
"He pitched well. I don't want to say he pitched great because he didn't, but he definitely pitched well enough for the win. We're happy with that."
Taylor was also pitching well and getting out of jams. The Defiance senior had four straight innings where he left two Celina baserunners stranded. Celina had six hits in the game, but was unable to connect for a run through the first five innings.
In the sixth, Celina finally found an opening. Taylor struck out Lonsway to start the inning before Tanner Freeman reached on an error. Kohl Murlin forced out Freeman at second on a fielder's choice and Parker Maurer was hit by a pitch to put two on for Smalley, who lofted a fly ball to short center. Defiance's Braden Frederick dove and nearly made a highlight-reel catch to end the inning, but the ball popped out of the glove, allowing Murlin to score the only run of the game.
"I guess you can say the baseball gods were smiling on us (when) the ball dropped," Mikesell said. "Overall, we played well enough to win the game. I'm a little disappointed with the six hits. They weren't all blasts, but when you get six hits, you have to score more runs than (one)."
Lonsway pitched a perfect bottom of the sixth, reaching 102 pitches. Mikesell brought on Rose to start the seventh. Pitching with a slower velocity from the right side, Rose enticed Charlie Gordon to pop out to the mound for he first out and then Bryce Borton popped out in foul territory to Lonsway at first base for the second out. Just when it looked like it would a quick 1-2-3 inning to end the game, Frederick reached on an error to bring up Blaine Robinson, who popped the ball in the infield. Freeman made a diving grab for the final out as Celina players rushed onto the field to celebrate.
"After facing 90 miles per hour for six innings (Lonsway regularly hit 91 miles per hour on the radar gun), you turn around and try and face Shawn," Mikesell said. "This year, he's been phenomenal with his command, which is what you want."
Isaiah Eichler was the only player on either team with a multi-hit game (2-for-4) and an extra base hit (a seventh-inning double).
Celina has a quick turnaround as they compete in the Fort Loramie Invitational this morning. Celina travels to St. Henry on Monday before facing WBL co-leader Wapakoneta at Montgomery Field on Tuesday for sole possession of first place.
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