Before Monday's Region 3 tournament opener, Sandusky American Legion Post 83 baseball coach Bobby Palsa implored his team to play their best game of the year.
Well, that was easy.
Post 83 crushed Bucyrus at Heidelberg University's Peaceful Valley Complex in seven innings, 13-1. The win improved Sandusky to 12-16 overall. It will face Galion (20-9) at 5:30 p.m. today back at Heidelberg, with the winner advancing to Thursday's winners bracket finals. Ethan Caudill (Seneca East) will start today's game for Post 83.
Ashland and Bucyrus also play today in the loser's bracket of the double-elimination tournament.
“Obviously I can't be happier with the performance the kids gave,” Palsa said. “I told them before the game that everything we had done up to this moment doesn't mean anything. Our record means nothing. We had to play our best game of the year today.
“I told the kids we're a very talented team,” he added. “We have talent and can play very good baseball, but have had ups and downs this summer. It was great to see the kids respond to that message and play their best game of the year when it counts.”
Already leading 5-0, Sandusky put up a five-run fifth inning to blow the game open.
Trey Gluth (Port Clinton) opened with a single, while Jake Strayer (Bellevue) followed with a double and Austin Hoffman (Perkins) drew a walk to load the bases. That allowed Devin Dubbert (Perkins) to come to the plate, and he came through with an RBI single for a 6-0 lead.
After Tyler Puckrin (Perkins) reached on a fielder's choice, Kyle Feyedelem (St. Mary C.C.) then added a two-run single to extend the lead to 8-0. Quenten Harrington (Perkins), who had a huge day, then capped the inning with a two-run single for a 10-0 lead.
“It was our first run-rule win of the summer, and to get that in the first game of the tournament is exciting,” Palsa said. “We have some kids on this team who have been playing for Post 83 for several years, and we saw them step up and lead by example today. We represented Post 83 well today.”
Harrington finished 4 for 5 with three RBIs, while Ryan Reed (Rossford) was 3 for 4 with an RBI and scored two runs. Feyedelem, Strayer, Gluth, Dubbert and Puckrin each added two hits.
While the bats were alive and well with 13 runs on 18 hits, Sandusky also got a solid performance from Luke Fraley (Perkins) on the mound. He pitched six innings, allowing one earned run on eight hits. He struck out two and walked four, and induced three double-play balls.
“When I was trying to think about who was going to throw Game 1, I spoke with Coach (Chris) Walton and we were kind of kicking some things back and forth,” Palsa said. “But when push came to shove, go with experience. I trust Luke more than anyone.
“He's had a lot of stuff going on this summer with going down to state with Perkins,” he added. “So he had a long high school season and also the trip to Oklahoma. But as soon as Perkins lost at state, he was back and ready to play here the next day. He's that type of kid that you love to have around. There was no one else I would consider to give the ball to than Luke.”