By Gary R. Rasberry
With a heavy schedule of games slated this week, Grand Lake needed something to start things off with a bang.
Pitching and hitting came through as the Mariners swept Stark County 6-3 and 3-2 at Jim Hoess Field on Monday afternoon in a makeup from an earlier rainout.
The win not only puts the Mariners at 18-12 on the season, but leapfrogs them past the Terriers (17-10) for third place in the playoff points race with 36 points, compared to Stark County's 34.
With doubleheaders still on tap for Thursday -- a 5:30 p.m. home twinbill with Delaware -- and Friday at Columbus mixed in with single games tonight and Wednesday, the Mariners got off to a good start to the week on Monday.
"We have eight games in five days, so we got off to a good start," said Mariners head man Mike Stafford. "Our pitchers have proven they are very good, we got some timely hitting and we got enough runs to keep the pitchers in the game." Aaron Tennyson started in game one and had one of his typical performances until his pitch count hit the limit.
Tennyson reached the 90-plus limit after five innings, striking out six and walking four while getting out of several jams thanks to timely Grand Lake defense. The Terriers scored once in the first and another in the third, but Tennyson closed the door in his final two innings before giving way to Andy Delagarza.
"Tennyson is a very competitive pitcher," said Stafford. "He's been there every time I have sent him out. He's a go-getter and aggressive. He keeps our team on our toes and keeps us in games when he goes out and pitches. As a manager, that's what you want."
The Mariners batters came up big with a pair of runs in each of the second through fourth innings. Clutch doubles by Aaron Bulkley and Andy Hudak were mixed in with plenty of patience, which showed up in the stat sheets. Grand Lake batters only struck out twice in the game as Terrier starter Eric Shaffer walked five in three-plus innings.
"The more at-bats they get, the more comfortable they feel," said Stafford. "Nate (assistant coach Nate Conrad) always talks about getting the pitches they like. Most of these pitchers have good fastballs, but they don't get any offspeed over for strikes. We try to tell them to look for the fastball early in the count. If they throw curves for ball one or two, they have to come back with a fastball. They all have stuck to the plan for the most part."
John Franzese and Scott Billak each had two hits for the Mariners in the opener. Phil Disher had an RBI single in the third to follow his sacrifice fly in the second.
In game two, David Zachary became the first Mariner pitcher to get four wins with a hard-fought win over the Terriers. The Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne junior allowed just one walk and struck out seven along the way, getting out of several jams when the Terriers had runners in scoring position.
"David went out there and pitched seven innings. He did a heckuva job for us," said Stafford. "He's an upperclassman who has some experience. He's a great kid and a competitive kid. He has a good slider and fastball. He works very hard.
"I wish he made the all-star team. He'd has definite numbers to be an all-star (3-1, 1.47 ERA coming into the night). He probably was a little disappointed."
The Mariners got the nightcap started off right as Billy Grace took Bill Fares' 2-1 offering over the right-centerfield fence to give Grand Lake a 1-0 lead. The Terriers came back with single runs in the second and third to take the lead 2-1. Zachary closed the door after that, allowing just one runner past second base the rest of the night.
The Mariners took over the lead in the fourth when Bulkley led off the rally with a single. Hudak followed with a single of his own before Michael Bertram brought Bulkley in with a third straight single of Fares.
Hudak was forced out at third on Franzese's grounder back to the mound and Bertram moved up on Billak's fly out to center. Jeff Warnock came up and grounded hard to short, but the ball went through the wickets of Alex Stewart to allow Bertram to score the game-winner. Bertram was the only Mariner to have a multi-hit game, going 2-for-3.
Zachary got through jams in the fifth and sixth before closing things out in style by striking out Stewart, getting Kelly Houser to ground out to third and ending the game by getting Mike Sullivan to look at strike three.
Grand Lake travels to Ohio State tonight for a single game with Columbus before coming home for three games in two days. Indianapolis comes to town on Wednesday for a 7:15 p.m. game before Delaware comes Thursday for a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader. The Mariners are back on the road to Columbus on Friday for a twinbill with the All-Americans. After an off-day on Saturday, the Mariners travel to Lima for a 7 p.m. Sunday evening game at Shawnee.