By Ryan Hines
Clutch hitting helped Grand Lake extend its winning streak to four games after a doubleheader sweep over Xenia at Jim Hoess Field on Wednesday night.
Quentin Brown and Bryant Witt each belted game-winning hits late in each game as the Mariners beat the Athletes in Action, 3-2 and 2-1.
"Today was the day of the big hit for us," said Grand Lake manager Scott French. "We got a couple of big hits from Quentin and Bryant tonight and it translated into two wins."
Both victories were come-from-behind efforts as Grand Lake eclipses the .500-mark on the summer with a record of 19-18-1. Xenia, the second to last-place team in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League, slips to 11-25-2.
The Mariners managed just 10 total hits in the two victories, but Grand Lake hurlers limited Xenia to just nine hits in the twinbill. Adam Abraham pitched five innings out of the bullpen to get the win in game one for Grand Lake while Brian Rumple was brilliant in his complete-game victory in the nightcap.
Grand Lake didn't leave much room for error in the two wins but thanks to the clutch hitting from Brown and Witt, Mariners fans left the ballpark happy.
In the first game, Grand Lake was trailing 2-1 after Xenia scored the go-ahead unearned run in the sixth inning. However, a one-out error by Xenia put Brooks Hunton, the tying run, on base before Sean Hoorelbeke, winning run, reached on a fielder's choice with two outs.
Brown, who's hitting just .150 this summer, then stepped to the plate and crushed a ball to deep centerfield which hit halfway up the fence. Hunton and Hoorelbeke raced around the bases to make it a two-run double for Brown as Grand Lake grabbed a 3-2 advantage.
"I was just trying to get a good swing on it and hit it hard," said Brown. "With Brooks on second, he's not the fastest runner in the world, I thought I would have to hit a gap to bring him in but I got it over the centerfielder to bring both runners in. I didn't feel it hit the bat and when you're using wooden bats, that's usually a good sign. It felt good."
"Quentin has been working hard to find his swing and I think that the hard work is paying off for him," pointed out French.
Xenia got the potential game-tying and game-winning runs on base in the bottom of the seventh, but Abraham worked out of the jam for the Mariners win. Abraham allowed three hits and an unearned run in his five innings of relief work of Grand Lake starter Michael Wilson, who worked just two laboring innings.
"Michael just didn't have it today and he knew it and told me about it," said French. "Adam came in and threw strikes and picked him up."
In game two, Grand Lake put off the game-winning heroics until its final at-bat in the bottom of the seventh inning.
With the score tied at 1-1, Hoorelbeke drew a lead-off walk and was replaced on the bases by the speedy Kevin Cislo as a pinch runner.
With one out, Ryan Chenoweth singled to put two runners on base with Witt striding to the plate. Witt then ripped a groundball up the middle over second base and Cislo beat the tag at home plate for the game-winning run.
"He's probably upped his average around 100 points in the last couple of weeks," said French. "I knew it was going to happen, he hit .340 at Ohio in the spring and you just have to give the guy at-bats to get comfortable."
"I was just looking for a good pitch to hit and I got a fastball and drove it up the middle," said Witt, who had three hits in the doubleheader. "Cislo can fly on the bases and I just wanted to get one to the outfield to give him a chance to use his speed and score."
Witt's game-winning hit allowed Rumple's outstanding performance on the mound the win it deserved. Rumple went all seven innings allowing five hits and one unearned run while striking out five.
"Rumple is a guy that if he can't throw all of his pitches for strikes, then he might as well not be out there because he doesn't throw hard," explained French. "When he can get all three of his pitches over the plate he draws a lot of early-count action with hitters swinging at the first pitch and a lot of ground balls."
YOUR WINNER, AGAIN -- Mariner ace Chris Kupillas was named the GLSCL Pitcher of the Week for the second time this season.
Last week, Kupillas went 1-1 with 17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings, tallying an ERA of 0.79.
Kupillas was also the Pitcher of the Week for the week of July 12.
It's the third time a Mariner pitcher received the honor. Adam Abraham won the honor for the week of June 27.
LUEBKE REPORT -- Marion Local grad Cory Luebke, who played for the Mariners last summer, is still having a solid season in the Cape Cod League for the Falmouth Commodores.
Luebke, who also pitches for Ohio State, is 3-2 with a 2.84 earned run average for the Commodores, who are 15-17-1 in the Western Division of the CCBL.
In his last start on July 21, Luebke went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out seven as the Commodores lost to the Harwich Mariners, 4-1.
STAMMEN UPDATE -- Versailles grad Craig Stammen continues to work his way up the ladder. Stammen, a 12th-round pick of the Washington Nationals last season, is with the Savannah Sandgnats of the South Atlantic League.
Stammen is 6-9 with the 'Gnats with a 3.58 ERA. Stammen leads the team with 113 innings pitched and has struck out 93 batters. After a rough start to the season, Stammen has improved, earning the Player of the Month on the team with a 3-0 record on the mound in June with a 2.10 ERA.
The Sandgnats are 14-16 in the second half of the season in the Sally League Southern Division, 10 1/2 out of first.