By Ryan Hines
COLUMBUS -- The Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League playoffs began on Wednesday at Bill Davis Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University and it began with a monumental upset.
Sixth-seeded Grand Lake embarrassed defending champion and third-seeded Lima, 13-4, behind a season-best offensive day and a strong outing on the hill from Ross Liersemann.
"We came out swinging the bats hot today and Ross did a great job pitching for us," said Grand Lake manager Mike Stafford. "Our goal the whole summer was to make the playoffs because we felt that we could do some damage if we got to that point. Now we're here and trying to win each game one at a time.
"I've preached all year about just getting into the playoffs and now that we've won our first game, we want to stay in the winner's bracket and win the whole thing," added Stafford.
The Mariners had season-highs of 13 runs and 19 hits against the Locos, who had taken the last four meetings between the two archrivals (series is 2-4 in favor of the Locos this summer). Lima (21-19) won the nightcap, 3-1 over Delaware, on Wednesday to stay alive in the double-elimination playoffs after the Cows were defeated by Lake Erie, 4-3 in the second contest of the day. Grand Lake (21-21) played this morning at 11 a.m. against second-seeded Stark County (24-18) and were followed by the 3 p.m. contest matching Lake Erie against Columbus and the nightcap featuring Lima against the lower-seed loser of the first two games today, which would be the Mariners if they lost against Stark County in the opener.
The offensive explosion, where every Mariner player collected a hit, was certainly a surprise to other GLSCL teams and anyone else that has followed the Mariners this summer as Grand Lake scored the most runs of anyone in first-round action from Columbus.
Ben Gaal, the lone Grand Lake player to earn any postseason honors by earning a first-team all-league, went 5-for-5 in the game and reached base six times. Gaal fell a triple short of the cycle while scoring three times and driving in three runs. Mariners nine-hole hitter Bryant Witt had a four-hit contest and was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle while scoring three runs with two RBI.
"Hitting is contagious and we got two big games from Gaal and Witt," said Stafford. "This has to be a season best for us."
"I don't think that I have ever had a five-hit game before and I think that a couple of days off really helped us all," said Gaal, who said that the team had practiced just once in the past three days. "We were all amped up to play our rivals and it showed in our play. We've seen that guy (Continued from page 1B)
three times this year and that may have helped us."
Grand Lake entered the playoffs with a .234 batting average, second worst in the league, but came out with the bats smokin' against Lima.
Down 1-0 on a fielder's choice in the first inning by the Locos, Grand Lake had four straight two-out hits which produced four runs as the Mariners jumped out to a 4-1 advantage. Witt, Bond, Hammond and Gaal, all had RBI hits in the second frame.
The Mariners went on to score in every inning the rest of the way except for the sixth and ninth innings.
In the third, Ben Humphrey singled, went to second base on a wild pitch and advanced to third on a fielder's choice before scoring on another wild pitch, one of three in the game by Lima starter Adam Burks.
The Mariners tacked on two more in the fourth on an error by the Locos and a RBI single by Humphrey for a 7-1 advantage, which put an end to Burks' day on the hill for Lima. The Locos ace had his worst outing of the season allowing seven runs, all earned, on 10 hits with two walks and just one punchout.
The Locos may have changed pitchers with Thomas Pemberton on the mound, but the results were the same for the Mariners' offense. Grand Lake scored three runs in the fifth inning on a second another wild pitch for a run and RBI singles from Gaal and Josh Dietz to make it 9-1 in favor of the Mariners.
"It didn't matter who they ran out there (the Locos had six different pitchers in the game), we just kept putting good swings on the ball for hits," said Stafford.
A solo home run by Gaal in the seventh and a trio of runs in the eighth ended any possibility of a Lima comeback, but the Locos did score a trio of unearned runs in the eighth inning to close the gap to 13-4.
Ross Liersemann, winner of four games against Lima in the past two summers including his only two wins (2-5) this year, went eight strong innings allowing seven hits with five strikeouts.
"Going into this tournament I was going to throw Ross in the first game because he's our best pitcher on the team and it just so happened that Lima fell into that spot and he pitched a great game for us," said Stafford. "He's been here for two years and he's a veteran around here that deserved to start the first game and he showed why."
"I've pitched well against these guys in the past and I just wanted to do the same thing that I've done against them in the past and throw strikes," said Liersemann. "Lima is one of the better hitting teams in the league and I don't know what it is, but I've been able to pitch pretty well against them and my teammates scored plenty of runs for me. With the big lead that we had, I was able to just go out and throw mostly fastballs late in the game and let them put it in play."
For more pictures from the Mariners' playoff game, log on to www.dailystandard.com