By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP —
Baseball isn’t a terribly difficult game to understand. Good pitching, timely hitting, solid defense, and taking advantage of what you can get from your opponent will usually lead to a victory.
All of those points came into play on Saturday afternoon at Pymatuning Valley as the Lakeside Dragons earned to wins over the host Lakers by scores of 13-6 and 10-5.
In the opener, it was a fast start for the Dragons offensively combined with stout pitching from left-hander Nick Meola that gave Lakeside the upper hand, and in the nightcap, the Dragons again finished strong, this time scoring six times in the top of the seventh inning to break open a 4-4 battle for the clincher.
“As I mentioned in the preview of our season a couple weeks ago,” Lakeside coach Andy Kiphart said, “there will be two keys to our success this season. Our pitchers need to be throwing strikes to keep the defense alert and on its toes, and then the defense has to make the routine plays. Throw in some timely hitting, and things should go well.”
In the opener, Meola was throwing strikes, and the Dragon offense was taking advantage of their opportunities.
After scoring twice in each of the first three innings, a four-run fourth and three-run fifth put Lakeside in control.
To show the extent of the Dragon dominance in the first game, consider that the first three Lakeside hitters, Alex DeCamillo, Sean Gilbert and Nick Meola, combined to reach base safely in 17 of 18 at-bats. In accepting 10 walks to go with a pair of Laker errors and 13 base hits of their own, the Dragons put up some heavy duty numbers.
DeCamillo had four hits, Meola added three that led to five RBI, Gilbert walked four times and was hit once.
Matt Rocco, hitting eighth in the order, who reached all five times he batted, with a single to go with a pair of walks and was hit twice, helped the Dragons gain a 13-2 lead.
PV (0-3) got on the board in the third as a delayed double steal executed by Jon Burford and Travis Kiser, who had walked and singled, respectively, saw Burford racing home for the first tally. Collin Winkler (3 RBIs) brought home the second run.
Burford and Kiser again got things rolling. Burford reached on an error, Kiser walked, and Chase Thurber plated one run with a line single to right, and an infield out off the bat of Winkler brought home the second run.
Kiser and Thurber scored in the bottom of the seventh for the final score, both runners coming home on sacrifice fly balls.
Lakeside left the bases loaded three times, and had it not been for solid work out of the bullpen by Jared Zeman, who fired a 1-2-3 sixth in relief of Meola, the contest could have been much closer.
“When I came in, I was just concentrating on throwing strikes,” Zeman said.
He did it well, as he repeated his efforts in the second contest by hurling four walkless innings to earn the victory.
Rocco scored four times in the game for Lakeside, and Kiser, hitting second in coach Nathan Smith’s Laker lineup, also reached four times and scored three times as well.
The second game started much the same as the first as the Dragons scored twice in the first and once in the second. Meola drove home the first tally with a sharp shot down the first base line that Thurber snared, scoring DeCamillo, and Austin DiBell (2 hits, 2 RBIs) scored Gilbert with a single to left center.
An error, wild pitch, stolen base and fielder’s choice manufactured a run in the second against Mason Lipani, but he settled down nicely after that before running into a minor jam in the fifth that cost him another run.
“We got some quality innings from Mason Lipani today,” PV coach Nathan Smith said. “That was a big positive for us because we’re counting on him to provide quality innings all season. He gave us a big lift today.”
Lakeside starter Alex DeCamillo was sharp in the first two frames, but PV finally got going again in the third, scoring three times by taking advantage of some Dragon miscues.
“I was really happy with how Thurber pitched for us today,” Smith said. “Normally, he will be our catcher, but his work today was good until that last inning. He just seemed to lose it in his mechanics.
“Our pitchers, though, are developing, and will give us a lot of good flexibility as we head into our league season next week.”
The six-run seventh for Lakeside (2-1, 0-0 in Premier Athletic Conference), resulting in 10 hitters batting, saw DeCamillo reach on an error at second, eventually reach third on another throwing miscue, and combined with stolen bases on consecutive pitches by DeCamillo and Sean Gilbert followed by a line shot to center by Meola, who added a pair of hits and three more RBI to his day.
“My swing has been a bit inconsistent so far,” the talented lefty said. “I was just trying to put the ball into play somewhere.”
Meola totaled five hits, scoring twice on the day. His pitching line was solid, as well. He scattered five hits along with just three walks and a pair of strikeouts.
Gilbert scored three times, DeCamillo two, Austin DiBell drove home a pair with two hits and Rocco drove home the final pair of runs with a line single to center.
Caleb Garcia also drove home two runs for the Dragons in the opener with two hits.
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.