By Gary R. Rasberry
Coming home with a six-game winning streak in tow, the Grand Lake Mariners looked to use its strong pitching, good defense and timely hitting to take down the rival Lima Locos at Jim Hoess Field.
The end of the game could be described in the refrain of the classic Meat Loaf song: "Two out of three ain't bad."
The Mariner pitchers did their part, and the defense played spotless.
The Lima pitchers, however, iced the Mariner bats as the Locos posted a 2-0 win to pick up their 20th win of the season and keep them on top of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League standings with 40 points. The Mariners fall to 16-12 with 32 points and remain a strong contender to qualify for the playoffs.
The Mariners came up with quality innings from the four pitchers used in the game -- which is the last before Sunday's All-Star Game in Delaware. Andy Delagarza, named the pitcher of the week by the GLSCL, went the first four innings, striking out six and scattering four hits. But he took the loss on a wild set of circumstances in the third inning.
Ryan Steinbach led off the third inning with a single for Lima and Delagarza was then called for a balk by the field umpire moving Steinbach up. After Alan Cattrysse singled to put runners on the corners. Delagarza was called for another balk allowing Steinbach to cross the plate for a 1-0 Lima lead.
Delagarza did not have anymore problems before he left after four innings and 75 pitches. Ross Lierseman threw two innings of one-hit baseball before giving way to Jeremy Krol, who gave up the other run in a more traditional way -- a RBI single from Tyler Johnson to score Kevin Longstreth in the seventh. Jason Marsik pitched a scoreless ninth for the Mariners.
Grand Lake pitchers combined to allow nine hits, just two walks, and eight strikeouts.
"We definitely pitched the ball well tonight," said Grand Lake coach Mike Stafford. "We showed why we are the best pitching staff in the league (the Mariners lead the GLSCL with a 2.16 ERA)."
The Mariners defense played errorless baseball and came up with a double play to end a threat in the fifth. Behind the plate, Josh Stewart and John Franzese each threw out a Loco runner trying to steal second base.
"Our catchers have done a great job this year," said Stafford. "We have three catchers (Phil Disher being the third) on the team and have done a great job helping the pitcher get the outs and throwing guys out in key situations."
The Mariners offense was stymied, however, as Chris Cummings scattered three hits over his seven innings of work for Lima. Cummings threw 124 pitches -- 73 for strikes -- in getting nine strikeouts and three walks before coming out.
"It looked like he got strong at the 50-pitch mark," said Lima coach Rob Livchak. "We had him in last week and took him out at 90 pitches. We ended up losing that game to Stark County. We told him since he was pitching a gem, we have to keep you out there. He was still throwing the ball hard out there in the seventh inning."
Livchak finally gave Cummings the rest of the night off and brought in Keegan Laycock before the eighth inning. Laycock struck out the side in the eighth and the ninth saw the Locos closer Rony Mercado, the league leader in saves with seven, finish things off for the save.
Grand Lake returns to action on Monday with a doubleheader against Stark County at Jim Hoess Field starting at 5 p.m., replacing the exhibition game with Portland. On Thursday, the Mariners' game with Delaware has been changed to a doubleheader starting at 5:30 p.m.