By Rob Kiser
It wasn’t pretty.
But, both Russia and Piqua baseball teams had their moments in the season opener at Hardman Field.
Just not on defense.
The two teams combined for 17 errors before Piqua came away with a 12-11 victory.
“The bottom line is we found a way to win the game,” Piqua coach Brad Lavey said. “Clearly, we have some issues to work out on defense — and some with pitching. But, I thought we did a lot of good things at the plate and on the bases today and we found a way to win the game.”
It was not the way Russia coach Kevin Phlipot wanted to start the season.
“I mean, when you look at, how many times have we been on the diamond,” Phlipot said about Russia’s nine errors. “Maybe one time for practice. So, that is (a factor). But, at some point, there has to be some leadership. Somebody just needs to step up and make a play.”
It came down to the home seventh when Piqua scored a run to break and 11-11 tie without making an out.
Mick Karn singled and stole second. Owen Toopes beat out and infield single and on a throwing error, Karn raced all the way home to end the game.
“I thought we did a good job of being aggressive on the base paths and putting pressure on them (Russia),” Lavey said. “That in the seventh inning was exactly what I was talking about.”
Russia had gotten off to a good start.
Piqua committed two of its eight errors in the opening inning as Russia scored two runs.
Evan Monnier scored one run on a sacrifice fly and starting pitcher Daniel Kearns had s single to make it 2-0.
In the third, after a walk to Carter Francis, Monnier doubled to make it 3-0.
“We started out playing really well,” Phlipot said. “We had all the momentum — and then we lost it.”
Piqua scored 10 runs in the third, fourth and fifth — taking advantage of seven Russia errors.
The Indians scored four runs in the third without a hit.
In the fourth, Blane Ouhl had a double, Cameron Deal had the first of his four RBIs with a sacrifice fly and Ouhl scored when Zack Lavey reached on an error.
In the fifth, Deal and Karn both had two-run singles to put Piqua up 10-3.
“At one point (in the. third), Owen Toopes had a great at bat where on an 0-2 pitch, he golf a ball out into the infield and two runs scored,” Lavey said “We were able to make things happen on the bases.”
But, Russia erased the deficit all in one inning, scoring seven times in the sixth to tie it at 10-10.
The rally started with a double by Francis and Monnier had a RBI single and Justin York had a RBI double, before Piqua committed three errors to turn it into a big inning.
“At one point, it looked like we were out of it,” Phlipot said. “And we put ourselves in a position where we had a chance to win the game.”
Jerell Lewis singled in the home sixth, Ouhl walked and Deal delivered a RBI single to give Piqua the lead.
“Cameron Deal really swung the. bat well today,” Lavey said.
Russia tied it in the. top of the seventh when York reached on an error and two errors on Gaven George’s ground ball allowed York to score.
But, Piqua was able to score the winning run in the home seventh when Karn hustled home end it.
Iverson Ventrua, Ouhl and Toopes combined on an eight-hitter for Piqua, combining to strikeout five and walk three.
Kearns and Grant Saunders combined on a 12-hitter for Russia, combining for five strikeouts, two hit batters and a walk.
Russia will host Jackson Center in its SCAL opener Monday, while Piqua entertains Northwestern Tuesday.
With both teams looking for a drastic improvement on defense.
Piqua Daily Call Sports Editor Rob Kiser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org