Stow's varsity baseball team played a doubleheader at Firestone on Saturday and came home with their first two wins of the 2012 season.
In the first game of the day, Stow Senior right-hander Kevin Schirra took the mound. Schirra looked strong as he worked a scoreless three innings. In the first inning he got two quick outs with a fly out and a strike out. Then two batters reached base after an error and a walk, but the threat ended with a fly out to center fielder, Sophomore Brian Groves.
Firestone mounted another threat in the second, but Junior catcher, Andrew Hurd, gunned a throw down to third baseman, Sophomore Mike Urban, for the tag out on a steal attempt. The inning ended two batters later with a ground out to second baseman Senior Kyle Scelza, who tossed to Senior first baseman Dan Garner.
In the third inning Schirra helped himself out with a fine defensive play. On a very effective bunt attempt, Schirra got off the mound quickly, got to the line as he grabbed the ball, whirled and fired to first base just in time for the first out of the inning. He then struck the next batter out and after a walk, retired the side on a grounder to Senior shortstop Thomas Gulley who tossed the ball to second for the out.
As Schirra kept the Falcons in check, the Bulldog offense was quiet early. In the first inning Urban reached base and was followed by Senior left fielder Adam Porto who both walked. After a fly out, Groves followed with a single, but the threat ended with no score.
In the second the Bulldogs got two runners on again when Garner walked along with Senior right fielder Alex Barry, but again no runs came home.
It appeared as if the chill in the air may limit the offense, but then Stow struck big in the third. Gulley lead off the inning with a sharp single. After one out then, Junior Greg Grecco, the DH, crushed a ball to deep left center.
But what appeared to be a certain extra base hit was caught by the Firestone left fielder with an over the shoulder catch on the dead run. With two outs, though, Hurd stepped up and hit a high drive to right that the right fielder could only stand and watch as it cleared the 15 foot fence for a two run homer giving Stow the early lead.
The lefty Garner then batted against the big lefty from Firestone and he drilled a 2-1 fastball out of the ball park in nearly the same spot for back to back home runs for the Bulldogs giving them a 3-0 lead.
Stow would put two runners on base again in the fourth, but could not score. Firestone now got back in the ballgame.
With only a single and a walk in the inning, Stow made several defensive errors behind Schirra that resulted in two runs for the Falcons making the score 3-2 after four innings. In the top of the fifth, Stow scorde one more run when Hurd led off the inning with a single.
After a fly out, a walk to Scelza, and a strikeout, Urban singled to score Hurd for the RBI as the throw home was dropped by the catcher as he collided with a charging Hurd. Firestone then scored a run of their own in the bottom of the inning.
Junior Ben Geopfert came in for Schirra and pitched well, but the Bulldog defense gave up two more errors that allowed the run making the score 4-3 after five innings.
Stow added another run in the sixth when Groves walked with one out. Grecco and Hurd were then safe on errors and Groves was a able to score. Garner walked to load the bases.
With only one out, Scelza put the ball in play, but Grecco was called for interference for running into the catcher as the throw came home for the force out and then Scelza was also called out as a result of the interference on the play and the threat was ended.
Firestone looked like they would take advantage. After a strikeout, they hit two singles, followed by an error and then another single. One run was in and the bases were loaded with one out. Stow Coach Celik made a pitching change and brought the right hander Alex Barry to the mound. On the first pitch to the next batter, Firestone attempted a suicide squeeze as the runner from third broke for home and the batter squared to bunt.
However, the batter missed and Firestone suffered a communication breakdown. Hurd caught the pitch and ran the runner all the way back to third only to find two Firestone players trying to share the base. As each one stepped off in confusion Hurd tagged them out for an inning ending double play.
Stow failed to score in the seventh. Firestone came to bat looking for the rally, but Barry, after two walks, was able to get a ground out and then a strikeout to close the game out for a 5-4 win.
In the second game, Junior right - hander Greg Grecco would start for Stow and he got run support early.
The Bulldogs jumped on the Firestone starter for four runs to open the ball game. Urban walked and Senior catcher Chris Choler advanced him with a fielders choice to first. Gulley, playing shortstop again, singled and Groves, in center field again, followed with a walk. Kevin Schirra, the DH in the game, then drilled a double the left field line for 2 RBIs. Junior Bryan Reginald, playing first base, hit a sacrifice fly to center to score another run. Senior right-fielder Alex Glessner kept the pressure on as he walked and then Scelza, playing second, singled to drive in the last run giving Stow a 4-0 lead.
Grecco took charge early as he faced only ten batters in the first three innings. He recorded three ground outs with a walk in the first. After a line out on a great diving catch by the third baseman Urban, Firestone got a walk, but the inning ended on a well executed 1-6-3 double play.
In the third Grecco sent the Falcons down in order with a strikeout to maintain the 4-0 lead.
However, the Bulldogs could not add to the lead. After the productive first inning, Stow put runners on in the next four innings as well, but could not get a run. The fourth and fifth innings looked promising, but both ended with double plays. It had appeared that the Firestone starter would not get out of the first inning, however he settled in and Firestone rallied.
In bottom of the fourth, with two singles and an error on the Bulldogs, they scored two runs to make it 4-2 Stow. Grecco started the bottom of the fifth and got a ground out. But the next two batters reached on a single and a walk. Stow made a pitching change as they went to the right hander Groves. With two men on base, though, Firestone got the big hit out of their three hitter as he hit a three run homerun to right which gave the lead to the Falcons 5-4. Groves kept his composure, though and limited the damage as he worked out of the inning getting two fly outs.
Now trailing in the sixth, Stow went quietly in order and it appeared as Firestone might get the win to split the doubleheader. The Falcons got a runner on base in the sixth, but on a fielders choice grounder back to the pitcher, Groves fired to second to get the lead runner. The Bulldogs then ended the threat and kept it to a one run game as they turned a 6-4-3, Gulley to Scelza to Reginald, double play.
Stow came to bat for their last chance trailing 5-4. Gulley led off and hit a hard grounder up the middle that was grabbed by the shortstop, but he could not make a play.
Groves followed with another grounder up the middle that the second baseman just could not quite corral and the Bulldogs had runners in place and needed the clutch hit. Schirra followed with a hard single, but the runner was held at third. With the bases now loaded, Coach Celik called for Dan Garner to pinch hit. The move worked as Garner pulled a hard shot past the diving second baseman and two runs came in to give the lead back to Stow.
The hit forced a pitching change as Firestone pulled their starter. The move would not work though. The next three Bulldogs, Glessner, Scelza, and Junior outfielder KC Kolke all walked. Urban was then safe on an error. After two fly outs for the first two outs in the inning, Groves walked and Schirra singled for his second hit in the ininng. A grounder then mercifully ended the frame for the Falcons, but Stow had scored seven runs to take a commanding lead.
Firestone did manage two walks in their half of the 7th before being retired to end the ballgame with the final score Stow 11, Firestone 5.
The Bulldogs will travel to Solon for a game on Tuesday and then host the Comets on Wednesday at Stow-Munroe Falls High School.