KETTERING — The Greenville varsity baseball team defeated the Fairmont Firebirds 6-4 Friday night, winning its fifth in a row and setting a 15-7 season mark.
“We played an outstanding game tonight, fundamentally, defensively and pitching wise,” Greenville varsity coach Eric Blumenstock said. “We hit the ball well, moved runners over and sacrifice bunts when we needed to. The biggest thing was starting off with three runs in the first inning and setting the tone.”
Greenville scored early with Quinton Wood driving a single to right in the leadoff spot to open the game.
The next three batters coming to the plate are rated in the top 10 Darke County high school statistical batting average leaders as listed in the Daily Advocate’s Sunday edition; Cole Ward batting in the two hole with .406 average at No. 7, Colton Nealeigh leading the county at .515 batting third and hitting fourth in the cleanup role Ryan Eldridge rounding out the top 10 in the county at a .371 clip.
Ward laced a single to left, bringing Nealeigh to the plate and drilling a triple to the base of the fence to score Wood and Ward to take a 2-0 lead.
Shortstop R. Eldridge picked up an RBI, slapping a grounder to the right side and plating Nealeigh to give the Wave a 3-0 lead with the Firebirds coming to the plate in the bottom of the first.
Coach Blumenstock sent his No. 1 starting pitcher, Austin Baumgardner, to the mound to face a strong Firebirds lineup with the big right hander setting the side down in order with back-to-back groundouts to Ward at third and R. Eldridge at short with the third out coming on a line-out to Wood in center.
Reece Hunt opened the top of the second for Grenville with a walk and moved to second on a perfect sacrifice bunt off the bat a freshman Logan Eldridge. Batting in the nine hole Ethan Clark did his job, grounding out to the right side and sending Hunt to third.
“The bottom of our lineup did a nice job tonight,” Blumenstock said. “Logan Eldridge had a real nice sacrifice bunt and scored us a run that was extremely important. It’s always nice when you can call on a freshman to get something done like that.”
Wood reached on a Firebirds error, scoring Hunt and giving the Wave a 4-0 lead with Fairmont coming to the plate.
Fairmont opened the bottom of the second loading the bases with no outs and the Wave’s lead in jeopardy.
A grounder to third had Ward, the Wave’s senior third baseman, fielding and throwing to Hunt at the plate to force the lead runner out at home.
Still facing bases loaded, now with one out, Baumgardner had the next batter grounding sharply to Ward at third with Ward fielding cleanly, stepping on third for out No. 2 and throwing a strike across the diamond to a stretching Kyle Bruner at first for an inning-ending double play and keeping the Firebirds off the board.
“That was huge,” Blumenstock said. “That’s a big inning. We win this game by two. If that inning goes a different direction it’s hard telling where we are at, so that was big-time defense. I can’t say enough about those defensive plays by Ward and how we played defensively today.”
Greenville went three-up and three-down in the top of the third while Fairmont was cutting the Wave’s lead in half at 4-2 with Greenville coming to bat in the top of the fourth.
The Wave went down in order in its opening half the of the fourth inning with Fairmont doing the same in the bottom of the inning with three fly outs to Quinton Wood in center, the last out a running shoestring catch.
“Quinton (Wood) moves good out there … he’s quick,” Blumenstock said. “He caught a ball 20 yards behind the first base in that inning. He covers so much ground out there, and it’s nice for our pitchers. You don’t have to worry about getting a lot of balls in the gaps. We have a real solid outfield, and Quinton is the head of the train out there.”
The Green Wave opened the fifth inning with a groundout to third followed with back-to-back walks to Ethan Clark and Wood with both runners moving up on a passed ball at the plate.
Ward followed with an RBI single to left to score Clark increase the Wave’s lead to 5-2 with Nealeigh taking a walk, putting runners on first and third.
R. Eldridge stepped to the plate and drove a single to left, plating Wood and giving the Wave a 6-2 advantage.
The Firebirds got out of the inning with a 6-4-3 inning ending double play.
Fairmont got things going in the bottom of the fifth with an opening single. A fly to Clark in left for the first out was followed with a hit batsman, putting runners on first and second with one out.
Ward picked off a scorching line drive at third for the second out with the third out coming with Baumgardner pulling the string on a wicked third strike changeup.
“That’s what (Austin) Baumgardner does,” Blumenstock said. “His fast ball brings it in there good, and then he keeps them off balance with his off-speed pitches. His changeup is outstanding. His curveball was really good today.”
The Wave managed to get L. Eldridge and Clark on base by way of walks in the top of the sixth only to be stranded with a popup to first for the final out.
With Baumgardner scheduled to pitch in Monday’s upcoming game, coach Blumenstock brought Dylan Shumaker in to pitch the sixth inning for the Wave, setting the side down in order with an opening strikeout, a popup to Ward at third and a lineout to Wood in center.
The Wave went down in order in the top of the seventh, taking a 6-2 lead into the bottom of the inning.
The Firebirds opened with a pinch-hit single to center and a walk. After a fly to Wood in center had the first out, Blumenstock brought Austin Weimer in to get the final two outs of the game.
A groundout to Nealeigh at second moved the runners to second and third with two outs. A shot up the middle glanced off the glove of Weimer, scoring a run to make it a 6-3 game.
The Firebirds made it a 6-4 game with a single to right, putting runners on first and third with the winning run coming to the plate.
Bruner fielded a grounder at first, making an unassisted putout for final out of the game and preserving the 6-4 win for the Wave.
“Baumgardner threw a really nice game today,” Blumenstock said. “Shumaker came in and shut them down for 1.1 innings, and then Weimer come in and finished it up. It was a pretty good performance all the way around.”