Berkshire made clutch plays throughout the day to sweep a doubleheader against Ursuline and Columbiana at Bob Cene Park in Struthers on Saturday.
The Badgers opened the day with a 6-2 win over Ursuline and closed it with a dramatic 3-2 victory over Columbiana.
“We’ve been preaching a lot lately about the will to compete and we had a very, very good day of practice on Friday where we did a lot of competition stuff,” said Berkshire coach Nick Burzanko. “I think that carried over really well today and it showed, especially in our first game, and then again in the second game when we needed to really dig down deep and find something within ourselves to make some plays and push some runs across. The guys fought hard and played defense well and that resulted in two really big wins for us today.”
Berkshire got off to a great start against Ursuline by scoring five runs in the first inning.
Jack Jacobs and Blake Jenkins sparked the rally with back-to-back singles and Jake Brown was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Brian Brent hit a hard ground ball in the infield but Ursuline wasn’t in time to throw Jacobs out at the plate.
Chris Groudle then singled and J.T. Bergmeier reached on a fielder’s choice. Garrett Bosse then singled home Brent and Joey Czekaj reached on an error.
“That was extremely nice to start that way,” Burzanko said of the five-run first. “Our first two guys saw one pitch apiece and both resulted in singles. Jake Brown got hit by a pitch and Brian Brent put a ball in play hard somewhere and pushed a run across. A couple of singles here and there and an error later in the inning pushed the next three across. That allowed us to settle in and the defense played really well behind Jack Jacobs on the mound.”
A leadoff walk allowed Ursuline to get one back in the bottom of the first but the Badgers responded with another run in the second when Jenkins led off with a double and scored on Brown’s single.
Ursuline scored another run in the second but Jacobs settled in retired six of the next seven Ursuline batters he faced. Max Janssen pitched three scoreless innings to finish it.
Jacobs, Jenkins, Brown, and Groudle each had two hits for the Badgers in the win.
The Badgers needed some dramatics to pull out the win in the second game.
Berkshire manufactured a run in the first when Jenkins reached on a fielder’s choice, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch to take a 1-0 lead.
Columbiana strung together a couple of two-out hits and benefitted from an error to take a 2-1 lead after one.
The score remained that way until the decisive sixth inning.
Jenkins was hit by a pitch with one out and Brown tripled to tie the game, 2-2.
With the go-ahead runner at third, Columbiana drew in its infield to try to prevent that run from scoring.
Brent hit a line drive to the first baseman for the second out. Groudle then watched three straight pitches get called as balls before he swung on the 3-0 count and delivered what would be the game-winning single.
“Our philosophy most of the time is you have to see a strike go by before you swing at a pitch, but he got a pitch that was belt-high right in his wheelhouse and he went after it and hit a line drive past the second baseman to score Jake Brown,” Burzanko said.
An infield single and two hit batsman loaded the bases with Columbiana runners with no outs in the bottom of the sixth.
Burzanko pulled his infielder’s in and it paid off as Brown fielded a sharply hit groundball at shortstop and threw home for the first out.
Max Janssen then caught a fly ball in left and threw out the runner trying to tag from third to end the game.
“Max made a great play and got behind the baseball and was able to throw a one-hopper to Bosse at the plate,” Burzanko said. “We threw him out by two or three steps to end an inning that started out looking like it would be disastrous.”
Brown pitched the first five innings to pick up the win. He allowed one earned run on three hits and struck out six. Brent, who pitched the sixth and seventh, earned the save. He allowed just two hits and struck out one.
Brown, Groudle, and Janssen recorded Berkshire’s only hits in the game.
With the win, the Badgers improved to 6-4 overall and put behind them the two-game skid they went through during the week with games against quality opponents Chagrin Falls and Independence.
“It’s a big stride heading into next week,” Burzanko said. “We were going to see what we were made of this week and heading into next week. I think our guys kind of found something deep inside of them that they knew they were capable of but they were struggling to find it. They found something and hopefully, these two games will carry over into next week.”
Berkshire travels to Harvey on Monday.