NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The North Ridgeville Gladiators used two opportunistic crooked number innings to assemble a hard-fought 11-6 victory over the Sheffield Venom and win their first Lorain County Hot Stove Class EE (age 15-16) championship Wednesday night at Palmer Field.
For the Gladiators (17-0-1), it was a combination of powerful pitching from starter Tyler Heyduk and a patient offense that exploited a Venom pitching staff that struggled with its control. Heyduk struck out 10 in 5 1⁄3 innings and allowed a mere two hits.
“He’s been dominating all year long,” Gladiators coach Timo Quintana said. “But we have to be able to field behind him and that goes for all of our pitchers. But Tyler at any point in time, he can control games, but this game we had to buckle down. The ball went our way a couple of times but we came through our adversity in a tight game and that’s good for a team this late in the tournament.”
North Ridgeville committed four errors to extend innings and cost Heyduk two unearned runs.
But the Gladiators offense worked Sheffield for 10 walks to go with three hit batters. All those runners were converted into a bunch of runs — five in the fourth and four in the sixth — to lock away the game after Sheffield had pulled within a run in the top of the sixth.
As dominating as Heyduk was, Venom (17-3) was not about to go quietly and took advantage of Heyduk growing less precise, walking three and hitting one in his last innings of work. Sheffield pushed across runs on a throwing error and Brody Sheaves’ big RBI double into the left-field corner to climb right back into the game.
“Just tried to stay relaxed and throw strikes,” Heyduk said of his early success. “Then I don’t know, I struggled to find the zone. I got a little amped up, over-throwing a little bit, but they’re a good team and they adjusted.”
Zach Cabell and Ryan Calvert combined to snuff the Venom hopes over the last 12⁄3 innings with one-hit relief.
North Ridgeville pitching got an able assist from catcher Tyler Wensing, who reached base four times on two patient walks and a pair of opposite-field base hits. He had three RBIs and threw out four Venom baserunners trying to steal.
“Whenever I’m up at-bat I’m looking to get on base,” Wensing said.
“A dropped fly ball, that’s an error or a nice hard shot between first and second to right field, I’ll take whatever I can get. Their pitcher, whenever he would throw outside he would get frustrated, and you knew the next pitch was either going to be wild or good … wild over the plate that you could put in play.”
In addition to Heyduk and Wensing, the Gladiators got more Tyler Time from second baseman Tyler Rowe’s two RBIs and two runs scored.
North Ridgeville had eight hits and their aggressive fundamental small ball was no better demonstrated than by center fielder Austin Timko’s 0-for-2 day that included a key sacrifice bunt and RBI on a sacrifice fly.
“Hats off to Sheffield, they’ve been dominating for years and it’s an honor to even step on the field with those guys because they’re well-coached, their players are hardcore, they know how to play the game. Everybody on that team is good,” Quintana said.
“Any team, to beat them, you’re fortunate no matter what the score is. The coaches I have here, we wouldn’t be this successful without the time they put in. There are six of us and they all work really hard. I learn something from them every time we practice.”