Massillon, OH - What started as a pitcher's duel took a turn on one play in the bottom of the 6th inning in Massillon on Thursday evening. For much of the evening, it was a deadlock on both sides. Both starting pitchers, Colin Bruno for the Dover Tornadoes and Drew Stitt for the Massillon Tigers, filled the scoreboard with 0's through the first three innings.
Dover tried to get a 2 out rally going in the first inning when Hunter Edwards sent a shot to the right-center field gap for a double. Ben Hamm followed with an infield single to put runners on 1st and 2nd for the Tornadoes. Stitt was able to get Mason Grewell to ground one to shortstop Gavin Marceric who went the short way flipping it to 2nd baseman Matt McGeorge for the 6-4 putout to end the Dover threat.
After being set down in order in the opening frame, the Tigers opened the 2nd inning with a leadoff single by Matt McGeorge. Catcher Brock Polilli followed with a sacrifice bunt to move McGeorge into scoring position. With first base open, Bruno was extremely careful with Stitt at the dish and ended up walking him to put runners on 1st and 2nd with one down. Collin Bruno was able to get Luke McGeorge and Chase Duplain to each pop out to end the Tiger rally.
Dover finally broke through in the 4th inning when they sent 7 batters to the plate. The inning started with a Ben Hamm double to right center, followed by an RBI single by Grewell. Cade McGarry followed with a sacrifice bunt of his own to move Grewell up. It was Jonah Marks' turn to bat and he sent an RBI single through to make the score 2-0.
Massillon didn't take long to bring the score back to even. Their 4th inning began with a Tyler Hackenbracht single followed by a Matt McGeorge walk. It was becoming clear that despite the lead, Colin Bruno may have been losing some steam. Brock Polilli once again squared around to lay down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to put two men in scoring position with Stitt set to dig in. Stitt took some frustrations from his struggles on the mound in the top half of the inning out when he sent a single through the infield scoring both Hackenbracht and McGeorge. Bruno was able to settle down following a Luke McGeorge single and left Stitt and McGeorge stranded at second and first respectively.
Massillon took their first lead of the evening in the bottom half of the 5th inning with the top of the order stringing together some hits. Marceric started the inning with a single and Brennen Crowe followed with what looked to be a sacrifice bunt but he left a trail of dust as he bolted down the first base line to beat the Tornado throw. With runners on first and second and no body out, Hackenbracht sent a dribbler back to the mound that Ethan Kellicker was able to toss over to 3rd to cut down the lead runner. Following a Matt McGeorge walk to load the bases, Polilli was able to get the lead run across on a 5-3 put out. Drew Stitt followed with a walk to reload the bases before Luke McGeorge sent a grounder to the left side that Dover third baseman Mason Grewell gobbled up and stepped on third for the force out to end the inning.
With their chances dwindling in the top half of the 6th inning, the Dover Tornadoes again sent 7 batters to the plate. Jonah Marks started the inning with a single followed by a Nathan Leggett walk. James Leggett followed with a bouncer back to the pitcher that Matt McGeorge scooped up and tossed over to third to get the lead runner. Following a Caden Schie fly out to centerfield, Ethan Kellicker battled, fouling multiple pitches off before drawing a bases loading walk. With 2 men down and the bags full, Hunter Edwards was able to draw a walk to tie the game once more, this time at 3. Ben Hamm followed with a sky high pop up that was reigned in by Luke McGeorge.
The back and forth affair entered the bottom of the 6th inning with the Tigers looking to regain the lead. Chase Duplain started the inning with a single, followed by a Xavier Hamid sacrifice bunt to move Duplain, the lead run, into scoring position and to bring the top of coach Spike Ridgley's line-up to the plate. Gavin Marceric was able to single to move Duplain to 3rd. With runners on the corners, Brennen Crowe put the ball in play in the infield which Kellicker attempted to throw home but was not in time to get Duplain, giving the Tigers a 4-3 advantage. Next up was Tyler Hackenbracht, who turned on a fastball and sent a shot to right field. With the game in the balance, the Dover right fielder misplayed the ball and it rolled under his glove to the warning track, allowing Marceric and Crowe to come around to score. Hackenbracht rolled into 3rd base and an errant throw from the cut off man to third went out of play, rewarding Hackenbracht the chance to advance home, making the score 7-3.
Coach Ridgley called upon Brock Polilli to slam the door shut on the Tornadoes and he did so without a blemish. The Tigers advance to play the Jackson Polar Bears next Tuesday at 2 pm at Thurman Munson Stadium.