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Big inning leads baseball to district title

By FRANK ACETO Associate Sports Editor Published: May 28, 2017 12:00 AM
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AKRON -- When it comes to the Tallmadge baseball team, winning district titles is something that is expected year after year.

So when the Blue Devils didn't win a district championship last year, it's safe to say many Tallmadge fans were a bit anxious.

They don't have to squirm any more.

Top-seeded Tallmadge won its first district title since 2015 after earning a commanding 14-4 victory over fifth-seeded Canal Fulton Northwest.

The Akron Division II district championship game took place May 18 at Canal Park.

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The game was called after five innings due to the 10-run mercy rule.

Since Kenny Linn became the Blue Devils head coach 14 years ago, Tallmadge was just 3-7 in district title games entering May 18.

Although the Blue Devils got off to a shaky start, they took command with an eight-run second inning and dominated the rest of the way.

As a result of its performance, Tallmadge (21-7) was scheduled to play Chardon Notre Dame Cathedral Latin in a regional semifinal game May 25 at The Ballpark at Hudson. Results were not available at press time.

Tallmadge was ousted by Norton in the district semifinals last year.

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"They [the Panthers] played a heck of a game," Linn said. "I think that was something that motivated our guys. What we have is a team that continues to challenge itself to get better."

Down 2-0, the Blue Devils put the game out of reach with an offensive explosion in the bottom of the second.

Tallmadge sent 12 batters to the plate and smacked seven hits. The Blue Devils also took advantage of an error that led to a pair of runs and two walks.

Second baseman Jake Rensel drove in the first run with a one-out double to left-center field.

The Indians (13-12) looked like they got a crucial second out when Jared Burick got caught in a rundown. No one was covering the plate and the ball wound up being thrown away. As a result, Burick and Rensel scored to give Tallmadge a 3-2 lead.

The Blue Devils didn't stop there.

Left fielder Sam Seeker followed with a triple to the fence in right field and scored on catcher Rich Eyre's single.

After consecutive singles by shortstop Phil Glasser and center fielder Seth Gergely, Zach Boyd made it 6-2 with a two-run single with the bases loaded.

Right fielder Scott Seeker, who led off the inning with a walk, concluded the scoring outburst with a two-run triple to the fence in right field.

"Scott picked up good day to bounce out," Linn said. "For him, .320 is a slump after hitting .480 last year. He still has 18 to 20 RBIs. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and just works hard."

That would be it for Northwest starting left-hander Bryce Munson, who lasted just 1-1/3 innings.

"We didn't get the big inning for much of the year," Linn said. "We had some valleys early. In the middle of the year, we hit a little bit. We sorted things out and felt things out. Guys stepped up all year."

Tallmadge took advantage of two walks to score two more runs in the third.

Eyre had a sacrifice fly to center and Glasser drove in another run with a grounder to short.

"Rich has been as tough as nails," Linn said.

Rensel added a squeeze bunt in the fourth and the Blue Devils ended the game with three runs in the fifth.

"Jake worked his way into the starting lineup," Linn said. "He had some big hits on back-to-back days. He has just been solid. I'm so proud of him."

Glasser and Gergely had back-to-back run-scoring triples and Boyd ended the game with a run-scoring single to right in the fifth.

"Seth has had a phenomenal year and Phil has been phenomenal," Linn said.

Burick, a right-hander, settled down after a shaky first inning to get the win. He improved to 8-1 on the season.

The Indians got a two-run double by third baseman Jared Sekely in the first. Northwest took advantage of two walks and a wild pitch to score its other two runs in the fourth.

Tallmadge had 12 hits and no errors. The Indians had four hits and one error.

The host Blue Devils tuned up for their next postseason game by falling to Division I regional semifinalist Walsh Jesuit 12-3 in a regular-season contest May 22 at Dave Young Field.

The Warriors (18-9) trailed 3-2 after five innings of play. But Walsh put the game away with 10 runs in the sixth.

The Warriors finished with just six hits and one error.

Tallmadge, which scored twice in the third inning and once in the fourth, had two hits and two errors.

Fortunately for the Blue Devils, they had plenty of time to bounce back for their really important game.

But it won't be easy.

Linn knows the road only gets tougher the rest of the way. He also knows his team won't be content with just one trophy.

"We're not done," Linn said.

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