By VINCE PELUSO
ASHTABULA TOWNSHIP —
Early season baseball in cold conditions typically favors pitchers.
Apparently, no one told the Edgewood Warriors that as they hammered home 21 combined runs in defeating the Grand Valley Mustangs 9-5 and the Ledgemont Redskins 12-1 in a season-opening doubleheader.
“I was happy. Ray (Webker) just said we scored in eight of the 10 innings we played today, that’s pretty impressive,” Edgewood coach Bill Lipps said. “We never went 1-2-3, we strung together some hits. I thought we were pretty good at the plate today.”
Edgewood 9, Grand Valley 5
The Warriors wasted little time jumping on the Mustangs to kick off 2013. After shutting out GV in the top of the first, Andrew Graeb (2-3, 2 RBI) started things off with a single and Connor McLaughlin followed with a walk.
Louie Wisnyai cleared the bases with a double to left giving Edgewood the early 2-0 lead.
“I can’t say much more about how Lou Wisnyai hit the ball today, he hit it really hard,” Lipps said of Wisnyai, who went 4-6 with a double, triple and 5 RBI in the doubleheader. “I thought Graeb played really well and hit the ball hard, too.”
The Mustangs came back strong in the top of the third, though.
Josh Kovats led off the inning with a walk and advanced to third on a Tim Steed double to left. Nate Wengerd brought Kovats home on a fielder’s choice to short.
An Edgewood error on a pop up to right allowed Wengerd to score and tie the game at 2.
After getting Graeb to fly out to center to start the bottom half of the inning, McLaughlin hit a single to right then the next two batters were hit by pitches.
McLaughlin gave Edgewood the lead by scoring on a past ball then Wisnyai and Tony Magda came home on an error to give the Warriors a 5-2 lead.
“Today it was obviously cold and if you can’t feel your fingers it’s tough to throw a breaking ball,” GV coach Russ Bell said. “But give credit to their guy (Vencill), he seemed to handle it pretty well. We hit a few kids. Obviously we’ve not been outside and this is less than ideal circumstances to start the season.
“With the conditions I might discount some of out mistakes. I’m confident we’ll get them corrected.”
The three-run lead was more than enough for Vencill to work with.
The senior went five innings for Edgewood, fanning nine, allowing three runs on three hits and walking just two.
“Doc (Vencill) has been a starting pitcher for three years, he’s got a lot of moxy,” Lipps said. “He went to Perry last year it was cold and snowing and he gave us five innings. So we kind of expected he’d go out and battle. He’s just a real competitor.
“Considering that the game started at 29 degrees and he had limited feeling in his fingers, I thought he did a great job.”
After GV added a run on a Kyle Orgovan single to left that scored Wengerd, Edgewood responded with RBI doubles by Wisnyai and Tony Magda to extend the lead to 7-3.
Graeb put the game out of reach with a two-run double in the bottom of the fifth, scoring Devon Mauer and pinch-runner Alex Wisnyai.
“We were pretty good last year, we had some good seniors last year that are gone,” Lipps said. “It’s real simple, these kids are starting to gel being in the gym for a month. We kind of had some guys I didn’t expect to do good things do good things and I’m real glad they did.”
Bell saw his team try to mount a rally in the bottom of the seventh, scoring two runs on a Warriors error to cut the deficit to four runs, but they could get no closer as Edgewood reliever Dan Joslin got a strikeout to finish the game.
“We’re still trying to figure some things out,” Bell said. “I honestly wasn’t real sure about the outfield lineup until we got here. We’ve got a lot of things to clean up. I think once we get out here and play more we’ll get through this feeling out period and be fine.”
Strikeouts were an issue for the Mustangs as they struck out 11 times, four going down looking.
“Strikeouts were a problem, we struck out too much,” Bell admitted. “We’ve got to put the ball in play. But I don’t expect that to continue. I just told the kids, the biggest thing is that we get better every day and continue to improve.”
Edgewood 12, Ledgemont 1
Things didn’t start off quite as smooth against Ledgemont for the Warriors, although the result was the same.
Edgewood freshmen pitcher Matt DiDonato, who is the team’s starting shortstop, ran into some problems in the top of the first, loading the bases with one out. But the young pitcher was able to work out of the jam with just one run — a bases loaded walk allowed to Griffin Degener that scored Kyle LaRosa.
“Let’s just attribute a lot of that to the cold weather,” Lipps said. “I think Matt’s elbow area tightened a little bit so we’ll evaluate that and get him back at short tomorrow, hopefully. He’s going to be a big part of what we do. He didn’t have a hit today but I thought he hit the ball well.”
While the Redskins held a 1-0 lead heading into the bottom of the first, it was all Edgewood from there as the Warriors scored the next 12 runs of the game.
Graeb led things off with a double to deep left then McLaughlin was hit by a pitch. Magda brought home Graeb on a fielder’s choice to second and Steven Perkio drove in McLaughlin on a single to left.
Junior Joey Zappitelli came on in relief of DiDonato in the second and ran into similar control issues early on, but just as DiDonato did in the first, Zappitelli worked out of it.
After loading the bases with two walks and a single, Zappitelli got Kyle Sudrier to line out to left to get out of the second unscathed.
“I told (Zappitelli) ‘let’s just say it’s cold and early in the season,’ ” Lipps said of Zappitelli’s first inning on the mound. “Overall, I thought Joey threw really well.”
Zappitelli went on to throw four innings, striking out six, allowing just three hits and no runs in earning his first win of the season.
Ledgemont coach John Wakim felt the missed opportunities early on proved costly for this team.
“It was our first game, but we got in one scrimmage so there’s no excuses,” he said. “Offensively I’ve got a lot of young guys in the lineup and it showed today. Bases loaded in the first inning, bases loaded in the second inning and we only plated one run.”
While Zappitelli sat the Redskins down on the mound, Edgewood added runs at the plate. Shawn Hodge scored on a wild pitch, another Graeb double plated Alex Newsome and Wisnyai hammered a single to center to score Graeb.
“I thought Alex Newsome had a great at-bat in the Ledgemont game with two strikes,” Lipps said. “We did a little damage with two outs and put a little pressure on them.”
Catcher Alex Kisha added to the Edgewood lead when he scored Devon Mauer on a double to left then came home on a single by Newsome to push the lead to 7-1.
“Kisha did a real nice job behind the plate and had a big double for us,” Lipps said.
Edgewood exploded for five runs in the home half of the fourth, led by a Wisnyai triple, to give the Warriors a 12-1 lead.
Kisha would throw out an attempted steal by the Redskins to end the game in a run-rule in the top of the fifth.
“Their pitchers did a nice job throwing strikes,” Wakim said. “They made us put the ball in play but really hats off to their outfield, they made some nice plays. It’s early in the season we’ve only been outside only a couple times. But, no excuses, the better team won today.”
Edgewood has also been crammed into the gym for the last month, as most northeast Ohio teams have been so far this season.
So, perhaps the biggest win wasn’t beating the Redskins or Mustangs, but simply getting outside and on a field.
“This field looked horrible at 8 a.m.,” Lipps said. “These kids worked their rear ends off this morning before the game to get the chance to play some baseball.
“They put in some hard work. It was completely frozen, it was like walking on a rocky driveway. They did a lot of work on it and they got the reward of two wins.”