By Gary R. Rasberry
SHAWNEE TOWNSHIP -- After suffering their most lopsided defeat this season, and possibly in the history of the program, the Grand Lake Mariners were forced to play in the must-win second game of the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League championship series against the Lima Locos.
The Mariners turned to closer Kyle Heyne, hoping that the Coldwater native would give them a few innings.
The Coldwater native gave them eight-plus innings, guiding the Mariners to a 4-2 win in the second game to capture the third GLSCL tournament title since 1994. Grand Lake ends the season at 24-20-1 while Lima, which finished second in the regular season, ends its season at 27-16-1.
"I can't say I was nervous, but I was nervous," said Mariner assistant coach C.J. Webb, who filled in for manager Scott French, who was in California but calling in for regular reports. "Especially after dropping the first one by that big a margin. To come back and settle everyone back down is definitely a big win for all our guys."
The Locos showed signs of possibly pulling off the improbable two wins needed to deprive the Mariners of the title by winning the first game 15-0 thanks to a season-high 18 hits and six solid innings from Jack Frawley. "In the sixth inning of the first game, when Lima went up 12-0, I was just telling the guys to respect the game, keep playing, get through this one and take the second one," said Webb.
Heyne, the closer for the Mariners for the majority of the season, was given the ball in hopes of keeping the Locos, who had used a lot of pitching over the last two days, in check to allow the Mariners to find some offense.
"To start the day we were going to have a committee. We wanted to win the first game," said Webb. "Heyne was one of those guys who was going to throw the first game. ... As the game started to progress and it started to get out of reach, I decided to save him for game two."
"It was fine with me. I started a week ago," said Heyne. "I'd rather start. It was a lot more fun.
"I told (Webb) I could give him four or five innings. I have a thigh bruise from Wednesday (coming on a play at the plate against Columbus). It felt fine as I got looser and looser. I just went with it."
Grand Lake drew first blood in the second game as Dock Doyle led off the second inning with a shot over the left-field wall off Lima's Chris Rubio to make it 1-0 in favor of the Mariners.
Heyne allowed three hits over the first three innings and the Locos had a prime opportunity to tie the game in the third but a defensive gem by Grand Lake kept the Locos scoreless.
Travis Jones singled and the speedy Jake Robbins was able to reach on an error before Drew Hoisington connected on a deep single to right. Jones ran through the stop sign at third and came home but Adam Abraham fired a perfect throw to Doyle at the plate to get Jones for the second out. Heyne then struck out Travis Fultz to end the threat.
"That was huge," said Webb. "You ask all these guys now what the biggest defensive play, they won't even remember that play. If (Jones) stopped (at third). He might score on a hit. You never know what happens. It just worked in our favor."
The Locos finally squared the game in the fourth inning as Celina grad Sean Boley doubled in Marty Baker.
The score remained tied until the six,m but this time it was Abraham playing longball for the Mariners, taking the first pitch of the inning by Jayson Bennett over the fence in left to put the Mariners up 2-1.
In the seventh, needed insurance runs came as the depleted bullpen of Lima began to show with the Locos needing three pitchers to get through the inning. Reliever Caleb Glafeneheim gave up a single to Bryant Witt before striking out Quentin Brown. Locos coach Rob Livchak then called on lefty Josh Varno to face Kevin Cislo, but the Wapak grad gave up singles to Cislo and Dusty Hammond to load the bases.
Shawn Kimberly came on to face Derek Martin, who lofted a deep fly to center scoring Witt. Cislo went for third and Hammond tried for second on the throw home. Boley tried to throw out Hammond, but Jones misplayed the ball, allowing Cislo to score making it 4-1.
Heyne allowed an unearned run in the seventh as a bad throw from Doyle to second on a steal attempt sent Baker to third, latter scoring on a Jones single. However, Heyne got out of trouble by getting Robbins, who entered Saturday batting .722 (13-of-18) in the tournament, to ground out. Robbins went a combined 0-for-6 in the two games Saturday.
With Heyne's pitch count at 100 pitches, Heyne continued to shine in the eighth, promptly retired the side in order.
"We didn't have a pitch count in there because French wasn't around," said Heyne. "I just kept going."
"Heyne threw a great ballgame. You have to give that young man credit," said Livchak. "He's been the closer all year. I don't know how many innings he put together (in the season), but he sure did put eight good ones together against us.. I've got to tip my cap to him."
In the ninth, Brian Bonner greeted Heyne with a single and Baker followed with a single of his own before Webb came out of the dugout and called Abraham in from rightfield to close things out.
"I was going to pretty much ride Heyne until he fell off the horse," said Webb. "We got Abe in, and we all knew what Abe was going to do. I told him in the sixth inning to be ready. He was ready for us."
Boley stepped to the plate and showed bunt, laying the ball down to the third-base side on a sacrifice attempt, but Abraham dashed from the mound and threw to Martin at third to force out Bonner for the first out. After Boley was pulled for pinch-runner Greg Gompf, Evan Armitage grounded to Hammond at second, who flipped to Witt for the force at second as Armitage reached first on the fielder's choice.
Jones, 2-for-4 in the game and 4-for-8 on the day, lofted a fly into short rightfield, just into the grass past the shortstop, but Witt got under the ball and made the catch to end the game.
"I don't know I deserve all the credit for it," said Webb. "Frenchy is a great head coach. He brought me in (Webb played at Ball State, where French is a coach). It was a great experience for me to coach these guys. I'm going to be a volunteer coach at Ball State. For me, it's a great stepping stone to get to the next level."
"I've got good thoughts about this ballclub right now," said Livchak. "There's nothing negative I can say about this ballclub. They've listened and learned. ... I'm going to miss them when they leave. I'm going to have baseball hangover this week."
Heyne, with two saves already in the tournament, earned the media's Most Valuable Player of the Tournament hone for his performance on Saturday. Heyne threw 121 pitches, 81 for strikes, in scattering eight hits and two walks to go with four strikeouts. Abraham picked up the save to go with his Thursday win over Southern Ohio.
"(The championship) is special for people around Celina. They have a great fan base just like they do here in Lima (attendance for the game was estimated at about 450)," said Heyne. "They're going to be happy about this. Wayne (Mariners general manager Wayne Miller) is definitely going to be happy. He has his times when he's (ticked) off when we're not playing well."
Lima 15, Grand Lake 0
The Locos collected 18 hits off five Mariner pitchers as the Locos blew the game wide open with a five-run second inning that chased Grand Lake starter Mike Wilson and a six-run sixth inning.
Eric Severson went 3-for-4 with four runs scored and a home run in the top of the ninth that capped off a big day for the Locos.
Travis Fultz added a 3-for-3 day with three RBI. Drew Hoisington, who hit his first home run of the season in the regular-season finale against Grand Lake the week before, hit another one off the Mariners in the first, scoring Travis Jones ahead of him.
Frawley, who went eight innings in the Locos' opening win on Wednesday, gave the team six solid innings of three-hit baseball with no walks. Dan Barker threw the final three innings, getting credit for the save despite the game being well in hand.
"Jack's a battler," said Livchak. "He was coming off two days rest. He did his job to get us to the championship game."
Hammond had two of the four Mariner hits in the game.