LORAIN — Everything that went right in Thursday’s second-half opening win for the Lorain County Ironmen went wrong Friday night in a 9-6 loss to the Butler BlueSox at The Pipe Yard.
Ironmen pitchers had to work out of jams the entire night, giving up 17 hits. And when the BlueSox weren’t hitting the ball cleanly, the Ironmen defense did its part to help with a few errors — both physical and mental.
In the meantime, the Ironmen offense had two runners on base in each of the first four innings and couldn’t get anything across, and then squandered a golden opportunity to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, leaving two runners on with one out.
Butler (26-20) tacked on four runs in the ninth, sending all nine men to the plate off reliever Vince Frate, just to make sure there would be no comeback for the Ironmen.
Still, Lorain County made things interesting with three runs in the bottom of the ninth and had a runner at second with two outs.
“We seem to struggle when we leave guys on base,” Ironmen manager Joe Rhomberg said. “I don’t know if they take that out to the field with them, but there’s always a couple of plays we don’t make defensively it seems like. That happened again tonight.
“We had some chances early to score. But their starter (G.J. Senchak) did a great job. He had a good fastball and mixed in a slider a third time through the lineup.”
Of all Lorain County’s failures to score, the most head-scratching one may have come in the bottom of the fourth when they had two doubles in the inning and still came up empty.
Rey Carrion, who had three of the Ironmen’s five RBIs, including a two-run double in the ninth, had a one-out double, but was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice grounder to short. Scott Splett followed with a double to the wall in left.
Anthony Nemer, who was safe on the fielder’s choice, tried to score from first and appeared to have the throw beat. However, his slide was less than ideal and Butler catcher Russell Clark was able to apply the tag for the third out.
“Unfortunately, these guys are learning still,” Rhomberg said. “I wish that didn’t happen, but at least we talk about it and we seem not to make the same mistake twice, which is good, even though we seem to make a lot of baserunning mistakes. But we learn from it and eliminate it.”
In the meantime, starter Brad Raley (2-3), Andrew Fanning and Frate were battered all night long.
After skirting trouble in the first three innings, luck ran out for Raley and the Ironmen in the fourth. Doubles by Josh Forbes and Clark sandwiched singles by Alex Zurich and Cody Herald and resulted in a 3-0 BlueSox lead.
The wheels came off for the Ironmen in the sixth thanks to some big defensive miscues. A hit batter and a single put the first two hitters on, and both advanced to scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by No. 9 hitter Clark.
Dylan Wolsonovich followed with a high pop behind first base that both Zach Ratcliff and Nemer ran to, but let fall between them. Nemer then held the ball for too long, allowing one run to score on what went down as an RBI single.
The hit ended the day for Raley. Fanning relieved and promptly threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt, allowing the second run to score to make it a 5-0 BlueSox lead.
“Raley threw real well,” Rhomberg said. “His velocity was good. He got to about the fourth or fifth inning and we could tell he was getting tired and his ball was getting up, so we decided to make a change. He usually goes six or seven strong innings, but we figured he was a little tired tonight.
“But he did everything well. He threw his change-up well. He was working on his curveball and his fastball had great velocity. That was nice to see.”
The Ironmen did outscore the BlueSox 6-4 over the remaining four innings to make things interesting. Ratliff went 4-for-5 with a double to pace the Ironmen’s 13-hit attack, while Carrion went 2-for-4.
“They seem to do that a lot,” Rhomberg said. “This team doesn’t give up. We’re a good offensive team. There’s a little less pressure when we’re down, so they’re a little relaxed up there. Their approach is better and their swings are better. I was proud they battled back twice to get back into the game.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Ironmen vs. Miners
WHERE: Linda K. Epling Stadium, Beckley, W. Va.