By Gary R. Rasberry
With a stretch of 13 league games over the next 11 days, all Grand Lake coach Mike Stafford wanted is to get through Wednesday's exhibition game with Portland without going too deep into a bullpen.
The term "Johnny Whole-Staff" -- which means using any pitcher possible in the dugout -- took a new meaning as the Mariners used six pitchers, including Stafford himself, to hold the Rockets to five hits for a 10-0 drubbing at Jim Hoess Field. The Mariners are now 10-3 overall and will enter Thursday at 5-2 in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
None of the six Mariners pitchers used went more than two innings, with Andy Delagarza, Cory Luebke -- who is slated to make his first Mariners start on Friday at home with Indianapolis -- and Stafford taking the mound for one inning each.
Stafford took the mound in the ninth inning. The former Ohio State pitcher had not seen live action since his professional playing days were done in 2001. Stafford allowed one hit, but didn't allow a run in his inning of work on the hill.
While Stafford got ribbed a little after the game, the fact that he threw showed that he needed to keep his pitchers rested for the road ahead. "We didn't have much pitching and I didn't want to use as much pitching since we got league games (for the next 11 days)," said Stafford. "We had a couple of guys throw an inning.
"It was a good feeling, though (throwing in a game situation). Going out there and being able to compete was a good feeling. I just didn't have the stuff I normally had," added Stafford.
By the time it came for the skipper to take the mound, the game was out of reach for the Rockets. The Mariners scored two in the second, three in the fifth and roughed up St. Marys grad Nick Pfeffenberger for four runs in the sixth to get into double digits at 10-0.
The fact that the Mariners were up and kept the pressure off the pitchers was a good thing for Stafford to see.
"That's kind of how I wanted it to be," said Stafford.
Getting most of the damage done for the Mariners was lead-off man Ryan Keena. Already known for his speed, the Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne star showed some power, slugging two doubles to the rightfield fence as part of a 3-for-4 day at the plate, collecting five runs batted in. Keena reached base four out of five plate appearances and blew the game open with a bases-loaded double in the fifth, scoring Dusty Hammond, Wayne Bond and Bryan Witt to make it a 6-0 game. In the seventh, Keena almost put the ball out of the part, hitting the fence on the fly to score Josh Eachues and Witt to make it 8-0.
"Ryan had a big night," said Stafford. "He did a good job. Our hitters started coming alive a little bit. I'm proud of my hitters."
Also having big hitting days were Scott Billak, Hammond and Bond as each had two hits.
Bond relieved Luebke in the fifth, throwing two innings to earn his second non-league win of the season. Josh Dietz came in after Bond and gave up two hits and struck out two in two innings of mound work, setting up Stafford for the ninth.
St. Marys native Matt Steinke was the only hot hitter for the Rockets, going 2-for-2.
Grand Lake's defense also shined, not committing an error and turning four double plays in the contest.
The Mariners start their grueling league run tonight at Shawnee High School against the rival Lima Locos. After returning home Friday to play the Indianapolis Servants at Jim Hoess Field, Stark County comes to town for the weekend series. The Mariners and Terriers will play two on Saturday at 4 p.m. with the wrapup Sunday at 2 p.m.