By ROB HAMILTON
Mount Gilead’s best baseball season in quite some time came to an abrupt end at the hands of Elgin last Tuesday in the district semifinals.
The Indians, playing at Grove City, surrendered six runs in the third inning and five more in the fourth in dropping an 11-0 five-inning decision to the Comets to end their season with a 16-12 record. They tied Northmor for third place in the Blue Division with a 6-6 mark in league games.
“We just made too many mental mistakes,” said MG coach Greg Gompf after the loss. “We just have to work to get better.”
The game was a pitchers’ duel until the bottom of the third inning. Over the first two innings, Indian pitcher Noah Arrington struck out three batters while scattering a pair of singles, but the Comets were able to get to him in the third frame. That, combined with some defensive miscues and other mistakes, turned a close game into a more lopsided one.
Caleb Lynch led off the inning by reaching first base on a bunt single. The next batter, Bryston Williams, hit a ground ball that was misplayed in the infield — the first of four Mount Gilead errors on the day. With one out and runners on second and third, Arrington intentionally walked C.J. Flack to load the bases.
That strategy then backfired when the sophomore pitcher hit the next batter to bring in Elgin’s first run. After that, the Comets got a two-run double by Dalton Brown and back-to-back RBI singles from Cory Pierce and Cantyn Belmer to jump ahead by five runs and end Arrington’s outing.
Xavier Harris came to the mound to finish the inning and did get the final two outs, but not until Elgin picked up another run on the team’s second error of the game.
“The second time through, they started putting the ball into play and were hitting it harder,” said Gompf. “We also didn’t make plays behind him.”
Meanwhile, Elgin’s pitcher, Sam Hardin, was able to get through innings without much trouble, thanks in part to a pair of mistakes running the bases.
After two routine innings, in which Zac Sturges drew a walk in the second to be the only Indian baserunner, Hardin surrendered his first hit in the third on a single by Ben Hayes. Hayes then stole second while Dustin McAvoy was at the plate, but later would get picked off that base for the first out of the inning. McAvoy would then draw a walk and reach second on a wild pitch, but went no farther before the Comets got out of the inning.
Then, in the fourth frame, Tyler Conners recorded a one-out single which he tried to stretch into two bases. However, he was called out after his slide took him off the bag and the Comet fielder tagged him, helping Hardin to get through another inning unscathed.
Unfortunately for the Indians, they would not be able to say the same thing about the bottom of the fourth, as two errors and three walks helped the Comets put five more runs on the board to take an 11-0 lead.
Needing at least two runs in the fifth to stave off losing via the 10-run rule, Mount Gilead opened with Arrington reaching and taking second base on a Comet error. A one-out walk to Hayes put runners on the corners and then, with two outs, Harris drew an intentional walk to load the bases. However, Hardin was able to induce a pop-up to get out of the inning and end the game.
While disappointed with how his team’s season ended, Gompf noted that his players improved a lot from last season and that his team is young enough to be even stronger next year.
“We came together as a team,” he said. “The kids worked hard — we cut our errors in half from last year and our walks by more than half. We’re only losing two seniors. We have to work to get better and good things will happen for us.”
Rob Hamilton may be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1805.