By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
Making the routine plays spelled the difference the Riverside Beavers as they topped the Lakeside Dragons by a slim 2-1 margin in Premier Athletic Conference victory Wednesday afternoon at Riverside.
A sound pitching performance by Maxx Brubaker didn’t hurt the Beavers, either.
“I was just trying to keep their hitters off balance and throw strikes,” Brubaker (1-0) said after his first start. “I know I’ve got a good defense behind me that won’t make a lot of errors, so I just tried to make them (Lakeside) put the ball into play.”
His efforts in keeping the Dragons (3-4, 0-3) from getting rallies going, keyed by his strikes and that solid defense, enabled the Beavers to take a 2-0 lead into the top half of the seventh inning.
Getting the first two hitters out in each of the first six frames proved to be a major development for coach Ed Humes’ team.
“I just told the kids that when I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that big zero under the error column for us,” Humes said. “That was the key to the game for us. “This was Maxx’s first start, too. Even though he has pitched the last three days, this was his first start of the season. He didn’t walk very many, he got ahead of hitters, and he did just an awesome job considering the conditions, too.”
The Dragons made some superb plays in the field, but lack of completing a couple routine ones cost the Dragons the two runs leading into the seventh.
Riverside (4-1, 3-1) scored in the first when, with two out and runners on first and second, a ground ball toward second base was misplayed.
In the fourth inning, a walk and sacrifice set up a ground ball to short that was thrown into the dirt, setting up runners at first and third with one out. Brubaker helped his own cause with a line drive to right field to score the run.
Brubaker pitched six and a third innings before faltering a bit as Lakeside used a pair of one out walks, a fielder’s choice, and Nick Meola single up the middle to score its only run. Meola’s hit came on a pitch from Mike Gundling, who earned a save for his efforts.
With runners at first and third and two down, Gundling induced a pop up from Austin DiBell, who had ripped the ball his first three trips to the plate and had nothing to show for it. Playing in a stiff wind, catcher Dan Walters jockeyed into position and made the catch to thwart the Dragon rally.
“Unfortunately, today we didn’t hit well until their were two outs in the inning,” Lakeside coach Andy Kiphart said. “We didn’t get the productive at-bats we needed. Defensively, we’re in a bit of a funk right now, too. We missed on some routine plays we should make, but at the same time, I have to be pleased with some of the great defensive plays we did make. If we clean up things on the easy plays, we will be fine.”
Two of the four Dragon errors led to both Beaver runs while the Beavers making the routine plays kept the Dragons off the scoreboard until that last inning.
Second baseman Joe Tribuzzo of Riverside was a key player in that effort for Humes. He fielded five ground balls flawlessly, including four of them as the first out of innings.
Add in six whiffs and only a trio of walks from Brubaker, including the pair in the seventh, and it was enough to offset a solid effort on the mound for DiBell, who fell to 0-3 on the season despite his team pulling off a pair of nifty double plays behind him.
“You have to realize that we only lost, 2-1, to a very good Riverside team that is always strong defensively,” Kiphart said. “Austin pitched a very good game for us, but even when things weren’t going our way, our kids never let up at any time. I’m proud of that.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.