Brimfield, OH- In Sectional Baseball action, it was the Niles McKinley Dragons facing off with host Field Falcons on Wednesday evening. Niles McKinley used 'small ball' to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the 1st before many had settled in for an evening of baseball.
Brixton Gilmore looked like a man on a mission through much of the first 3 innings for the Dragons. The Niles McKinley pitcher was perfect through 2-2/3 before allowing his first baserunner via a walk to Field 9-hole hitter Carter Little. He allowed a walk to the next man up, Garit Greene as well, but was able to get Braxton Baumberger to ground out to end the 3rd inning.
Despite his team's 1st inning struggles, Field southpaw Caleb Gartner settled in and got into a groove, retiring the Dragons with little traffic on the base paths during the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th frames.
Caleb Gartner is set to release a pitch during Wednesday's action
For as smooth sailing as the first 3 frames went for Gilmore, there was a storm brewing as he took to the hill for the bottom of the 4th. No, the skies remained nearly cloudless with a light late spring breeze, rather it was the Falcon bats that were set to wreak havoc on the Dragons' afternoon. It all got started with 3-hole hitter Kayden Smith leading things off with a single, the first hit for Field on the afternoon. Smith was quick to take 2nd on a stolen base to give the Falcons a runner in scoring position with no one out. Caleb Gartner was able to draw a walk and Grady Eader laid down a beautiful sacrifice bunt to move Smith and Gartner into scoring position with 1 out.
Grady Eader takes a ball during an at-bat Wednesday afternoon
Into the box stepped Drexal McAmis. McAmis was able to work the count to a favorable 3-1 before smashing a Gilmore offering back up the middle to plate both runners and give Field a 2-1 lead. From there, the wheels fell off the wagon for Gilmore and the Dragons. A Logan Lonzrick single advanced McAmis to third. With Gavin Greene at the plate, Gilmore threw a wild pitch allowing McAmis to scurry home to advance the lead to 3-1. Greene then was hit by a Gilmore offering to put runners on 1st and 2nd before Carter Little once more drew a walk to load the bases.
Drexal McAmis awaits the Niles offering
With ducks on the pond and the top of the order due up and 3 runs already across, the bleeding didn't stop there for Niles. Garit Greene smacked a single that plated 2 Falcons to grow the lead to 5-1 and put runners on the corners with still only 1 out in the inning. Bumberger was the next batter up for the Falcons. He sent one back to the pitcher and was retired on a fielder's choice but Little was able to come home and the lead grew to 6-1. By this time, Niles had gone to reliever Matthew Kozak and he was able to get Smith, the 10th batter in the inning to ground out to the 1st baseman.
Gartner came out and pitched a scoreless 5th and attempted to help his own cause once again with a lead-off double in the bottom of the 5th. The Falcons however were not able to draw on their 4th inning success and Gartner was stranded at third.
Caleb Gartner connects for a double during this 5th-inning at-bat
Coach Joe Peterson opted to let Gartner start the 6th inning, but after allowing a runner to reach, he quickly made the move to hard-throwing right-hander Braxton Baumberger. Baumberger yielded a run in the 6th, allowing the inherited runner from Gartner to come around and score, shrinking the Falcon lead to 6-2 as they made their way to the bottom of the 6th.
In the 6th, it was the top of Coach Petersons' line-up that once again rallied. Garit Greene got the party started with a 1 out single. With Baumberger at the dish, Greene quickly advanced to 2nd on a stolen base. Baumberger, like Gartner before him, helped his own cause with a single of his own, putting Falcons on the corners with 1 out. Following a Kayden Smith walk to load the bases, Caleb Gartner grounded into a 4-3 fielders choice, allowing Greene to come across to get the insurance run back that the Dragons had tried to chip away at in the top half of the inning.
In the top of the 7th, Niles McKinley was able to load the bases with a few questionable calls by the home plate umpire on balls and strikes. Unfazed by the mounting pressure and what-ifs that could come from the bases being loaded, Baumberger buckled down and punched out the Niles batter to capture the Sectional crown.
Braxton Baumberger during the 7th inning
Field advances to play Youngstown Ursuline on Monday evening in Struthers.