After giving up three runs in the first inning to spot the Jefferson Falcons a 3-0 lead, Edgewood starting pitcher Bobby Dragon appeared to be in for a long day.
But the senior settled in and didn’t allow another hit until the seventh inning to keep the Warriors in the game, and allowed them to pull out a thrilling 4-3 non-conference win thanks to a bases loaded walk in the bottom of the seventh drawn by Andrew Graeb.
“I just mixed my pitches up,” Dragon said. “I kind of left a few pitches out over the plate then I talked to my catcher (Jeff Imbrogno) in the dugout and said I gotta hit the corners. Jeff did a really good job catching and calling my pitches today.”
Down 3-2 entering the seventh, Zack Popely started things when he ripped a ball to third base that took a bad hop and fell into left for a single.
Dragon followed with a line-drive double into the right-center field gap to put runners on second and third.
Jefferson opted to intentionally walk Imbrogno, loading the bases for Jimmy Wilson, who ripped the first pitch he saw for an RBI single to tie the score at 3.
“Maybe green lighting Jimmy early in the game gave him a little bit of confidence where he could go up there and get the hit,” first-year Edgewood coach Bill Lipps said. “(They) intentionally walked Jeff to get to him and you gotta take pride as a ballplayer that they intentionally walked a guy to get to you. You gotta make them pay.”
Falcons starting pitcher Andy Santiago (6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 7 K, 4 BB) settled in after the Wilson hit and got Tyler Wawrowski to hit into a fielders choice and struck out Lou Wisnyai.
But Graeb worked a 3-0 count then took a 3-1 fastball that was too high to walk for the winning run.
“I think big innings seem to start with a dirty ground ball,” Lipps said. “We hit a ground ball to third that took a tough hop and they couldn’t make a play on it. Bobby’s Bobby. It’s pretty nice having Bobby, Jeff and Jimmy sit there. We had the right part of our lineup up.
“Then Andy didn’t have to take the bat off his shoulder so sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes it’s good to be lucky.”
Jefferson coach Scott Barber said it’s difficult to put runners on base in front of the meat of Edgewood’s order.
“It was tough (ending for Santiago),” Barber said. “He made some mistakes. Let guys get on for the meat of their order and that’s what hurt.
“You can’t set the table for them you gotta make the outs when you get the outs and make those three beat you because you’re not going to stop them.”
Dragon (7 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 5 K, 3 BB) said he was excited for Wilson’s hit, as well as his own double to set the table for his teammate.
“I’m very comfortable (at the plate),” he said. “Before I went to the plate I told myself I need to get a hit for my team. I gotta pull through for my team.
“I’m very happy for him (Jimmy). Me and Jimmy growing up together, he’s my best friend and I want the best for him and I’m glad he pulled that out. It’s a big confidence booster for him.”
Jefferson started the game strong when Joey Piscsalko got a one-out singled and advanced to third on a wild pitch following a Santiago walk.
Ryan Hayes followed with a two-run double down the right field line to make the score, 2-0.
Johnny Knight brought home Hayes on a single to right to push the lead to three, but was thrown out trying to advance to second.
From that point on Dragon (3-2) didn’t allow another hit until Brett Powers hit a two-out single in the top of the seventh.
“We weren’t very aggressive after the first inning,” Barber said. “I don’t know why our approach changed, we should’ve been more aggressive, we were tentative. That hurt us getting through things.”
With the Divsion II sectional-district tournament draw Sunday, the win is particularly big for the Warriors, whose four loses prior had come by a combined five runs.
“It’s enormous, if we had lost this game, 3-2, I don’t know...” Lipps said. “Bobby has been the guy all year. He lost a game to Riverside where he gave up 7, but 5 were unearned. He lost a 2-1 game to Conneaut where we left 10 on base. He’s continually a very, very good high school baseball player. He’s a good leader. He’s the guy you want up at the plate, on the mound.”
Dragon agreed about the importance of the win, but said he still knows that Edgewood (12-4) will see Jefferson (11-5) at least once more this season.
“This is probably one of the biggest games of the season, we’ve beat them twice and play them again so we gotta be prepared for the next time,” he said. “It feels really good because all the loses were close games and this win really helped us and helped me with my confidence.”
Barber said going into Tuesday the goal was to win for seeding. Now, he and his Falcons turn their attention to the All-American Conference race, where they 5-1.
“I mean, it’s entirely up to them (how the players reacts to the loss),” he said. “We don’t change anything we do. Our main goal going into today was our seeding for the tournament, now it goes to conference championship next week and go from there.
“Both teams should get good seeds in the tournament, no doubt about it.”