ELYRIA — If Elyria and Amherst are facing each other in baseball, it usually means those in attendance are in for a close game.
For the third time in four years the Comets beat the Pioneers by a run — 5-4 — in a game Sunday afternoon that appeared there for Elyria’s taking.
Instead, Amherst came through at opportune times, doing just enough to pull out the victory.
“I really liked the way we responded after falling behind early on,” Comets coach Matt Rositano said. “We’re learning as we go and we had some mistakes which you’re going to have this early in the year.”
One big inning was all Amherst needed.
The Pioneers led 4-1 through the first four innings, while starter Hunter Olsen was in a groove with five strikeouts.
That changed in the top of the fifth, with Amherst using impressive plate discipline to rally for four runs to take the lead for good.
“We had a great approach at the plate and put together some great at-bats to take the lead right back,” Rositano said.
The Comets opened the inning with back-to-back singles from Caleb McGee and Jason Manos, with McGee scoring on a wild pitch to cut the deficit to 4-2. A few batters later, senior Kyle Dalzell had the at-bat of the game.
Dalzell, after working the count to 3-1, swung for the fences and whiffed, running the count to 3-2 with two runners in scoring position. He changed his approach on the next pitch and lined it into right-center for a two-run single that tied the game 4-4.
“I tried to hit the houses over there on the first swing but once there were two strikes I had to change my approach,” Dalzell said. “I jumped on a good pitch to hit and just tried to make solid contact.”
Amherst kept its rally going from there, adding the game-winning run when Connor Emch scored on a throwing error.
Comets reliever Brayden Willbond made the one-run lead stand. He was efficient, hitting his spots and making Elyria settle for tough pitches to hit.
He also got help from his defense, with a number of nice plays, including a running catch by T.J. Staton on a liner to right field. Staton also doubled, scored twice and had two steals.
“I wanted to make the pitcher throw some pitches and I waited on the fastball when I was at the plate,” Staton said. “Our team never got down and we played like a real unit.”
Elyria had a big inning of its own in the fourth, scoring three times to break a 1-1 tie.
Timely hitting fueled the rally, with the Pioneers getting only two singles in the inning but making them count. One was an RBI blooper from Zach Schuster and Kevin Reddinger had the other single, scoring Elyria’s fourth run. Reddinger had three hits in the game.
“We always seem to lose these close ones to Amherst,” Elyria coach Ed Piazza said.” I thought we played pretty well overall, but we built a lead and weren’t able to finish it off.”
“We have really good team speed and our fast guys are also good base-runners,” Rositano said. “This was a good start for us and we should continue to improve.”