By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
JEFFERSON TOWNSHIP —
The Jefferson Falcons were blessed to have taken a trip to warmer climates to start their 2013 baseball season, but now that they are back to the reality of the weather in Northeast Ohio, they need to bring things back into focus.
They got a stiff dose of how it will be with high winds, similar to those that blow around Wrigley Field in Chicago creating havoc for teams. Focus can take a lot more work to be successful, and against the Girard Indians on Cotton Field at the Havens Complex on Monday afternoon, that focus came to pass for the Falcons in the third inning as they claimed a tight 6-5 All-American Conference victory.
“It’s a good thing we scored six in that inning today and not just four,” a relieved Falcons coach Scott Barber said. “We’re going to have a deep pitching staff this year. Troy (Bloom) is our only senior pitcher. We’ve got a lot of talent, but I don’t know how it’s going to fall into place yet. We need to get better as a team, and somebody has to step up as a leader to get us fired up.”
It may well be Bloom, who came on to pitch for the Falcons in the fourth inning and was the beneficiary of that six run third for the Falcons (3-2, 1-0 in AAC).
Scott Davidson, Joe Piscsalko, and Chris Wittenmyer had singled to start the Jefferson third inning.
Girard coach Aaron Alejars went to the mound and felt the need to make a change, and it at first looked like a very wise move.
“Nick (Krajcirik) is our ace pitcher,” he said. “Earlier in the game, he has slipped a little fielding a bunt and rolled (an ankle) a little. I went in to ask if he was OK, but it was clear he had lost something off his pitches. Jefferson hit the ball hard, so I went with Kyle (Harris).”
The high winds blowing across the field allowed both coaches to keep their outfielders close, and with the bags loaded in the third and nobody out, Matt Barber came up to face Harris first. He ripped a one-strike pitch directly at second baseman Jim Standohar, apparently setting up at the least a forceout at home plate. The ball had other ideas as it caromed toward shortstop, cutting a 2-0 deficit into a 2-1 ballgame for the Falcons.
Cole Erdel followed with possibly the hardest-hit ball of the day, a line shot down the left-field line that scored Piscsalko and Wittenmyer. Jesse Skvarek laid down a beautiful bunt along the third-base line, it was fielded quickly by the catcher, who fired the ball into right field for the fourth run.
A sacrifice fly to left from Kyle Ashburn and an infield out off the bat of Brett Powers capped the rally. It proved to be just enough, but it wasn’t easy for Jefferson.
“We’ve got to learn to work through the little kinks in our game,” Scott Barber said. “It’s just little things like fielding ground balls and giving away walks.”
Erdel and Bloom gave up only two walks in the game, but they both scored and four Falcon errors in the field created opportunities for the Indians to score more runs. Making good plays, though, helped the Falcons to escape with the win.
Girard (2-4, 0-1 in AAC) tallied in the top of the third by taking advantage of one of its strengths speed.
“We’ve got four or five kids who can really run well,” Alejars said. “Maybe the biggest thing for us today was that they did a good job of keeping our leadoff hitter, Jordan Graziano, off the bases. You aren’t going to win too often when your top guy is 0-4. It makes a difference, and this is already our third one run loss of the season.”
With one out in the top of the third, Tyler Alejars walked, the only free pass issued by starter Erdel. Alejars promptly stole second and third over the next three pitches, and Jim Standohar brought him home with a line drive to left. Aware of his speed, Erdel fired a pickoff attempt deep into foul ground beyond first base, and after an infield out moved him to third, a booted ground ball plated him with the second run.
After the Falcons had their good time, Bloom entered and delivered a 1-2-3 fourth inning, looking sharp in doing it, a very good sign.
The Girard fifth was different.
Again with one out, Alejars reached on a single, stole second and made it to third on a wild pitch. After Bloom fanned Standohar for the second out, Harris walked and stole second on a fake delayed double steal. Evan Standohar delivered both runners and came home soon after Nick Krajcirik drilled a double down the left-field line.
The nose-to-the-grindstone pitching of Bloom followed, though, as he retired the next seven hitters, three via strikeout, and the win was secure.
It all ended on a fine play at third as Ethan Pawlowski snared a hot grounder and fired a bullet to Matt Barber.
Alejars scored twice for the Indians and Evan Standohar drove home a pair. Harris was sharp in relief, allowing two hits and fanning six in four frames. Krajcirik took the loss.
Scott Davidson had a pair of singles for the Falcons, Erdel had his two RBI and allowed only a pair of hits in three innings on the hill. Bloom was perfect, save for that fifth inning, and the Falcons did just enough at the right time to claim the win.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.