LORAIN -- The Titans were all-in Tuesday at The Pipe Yard.
Facing first-place Euclid and in need of a win to stay in the Lake Erie League title race, Lorain was able to escape with a 2-1 win after a bases-loaded walk-off walk by sophomore Branden Gaines in the 10th inning.
Lorain (12-7, 9-1) tied Euclid (11-8, 9-1) atop the LEL with two games remaining for each team. The Titans play Warrensville Heights today and Cleveland Heights on Thursday. With two wins, the worst they could do is share the title.
Lorain coach Brad Ternes wasn’t taking any chances, leaving starting pitcher Michael Velez in for all 10 innings. Ternes was confident in his ace, who allowed only four hits and didn’t walk anyone in 105 pitches.
“Not a chance I was taking him out,” Ternes said. “He’s a pretty big, strong kid. He does the running and the conditioning he needs to so he’s in shape to get to that part of the game.”
Velez (3-3), who struck out one through eight innings, seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He struck out a batter in the ninth and the first two in the 10th. He didn’t allow a hit after the fifth inning.
“I was feeling great throughout the game. Of course, you’re going to wear and tear, but I pushed it all the way out and had 100 percent faith in my team behind me,” Velez said. “This is one of our biggest wins all season.”
The Titans loaded the bases in the 10th inning when reliever Sean Ott walked the first batter he faced and hit the next. Demon Hisle, who was trying to sacrifice, did more than that, executing a perfect bunt that went for a single to load the bases.
After Aaron Andujar hit into a fielder’s choice, Gaines was set up to play the hero. He did just that by drawing the walk, sending in Brandon Bartlome with the winning run.
“I went up there with mental focus,” Gaines said. “Coach told me to be patient. He wasn’t throwing me anything. Everything was outside, but I was waiting for it to get that game-winning hit. It didn’t work out that way, but it doesn’t matter, we came away with the ‘W.’”
Ternes knew his team had a good chance in the 10th.
“Once you get that leadoff runner on, it just makes the defense more on their toes because they have to react to the small ball that we might be able to do,” Ternes said. “That was a great, disciplined at-bat (for Gaines). It would be real easy in that situation to go up there and try to press and try to do too much. For him to just know and just wait for his pitch, he had a great mental approach going into it. He was very patient and it won the game for us.”
Lorain took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Justin Liserio delivered a single that scored Gaines, who led off the inning with a single.
The Panthers answered in the top of the fifth on a two-out RBI single by Terry Duckworth that scored Tim Cox, who led off with a single.
Lorain lost a heartbreaker at Euclid last week, blowing a 3-2 lead and allowing two unearned runs in the bottom of the seventh. The Titans committed seven errors in that game.
Contact Steve Walker at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.