By Terry Mazzone
The Dukes were not quite ready for prime time Saturday afternoon as they were shutout for the first time this season, 13-0, by Firelands at Larry DeVoe Memorial Field.
Winners of five of their last six games and riding a three game winning streak, the Dukes were hoping to show they belonged among the upper echelon of the Lorain County League. Instead, they wound up watching Firelands clinch the inaugural Lorain County League championship on their home field.
Facing one of the league’s top pitchers in Aaron Urban, who entered the game with a league ERA of 1.75, the Dukes were unable to muster much offense collecting just three hits, equaling their lowest output of the season going back to the season opener win over Chippewa. Some less than stellar defense resurfaced at inopportune times as they committed six errors.
Duke sophomore C. J Polen took the loss and is 2-2 on the season. He went four innings, gave up six runs on seven hits, struck out three, walked three and hit three batters. Drew Unangst pitched the fifth and gave up seven runs, although just two were earned. He allowed seven hits and walked one.
“This was not what we had planned,” Duke Coach Dan Davison said. “Polen struggled to find the zone consistently and we had to throw good pitches to a great hitting team and they took advantage of it. Our defense committed too many mistakes and the bats were pretty silent. This was probably the worst game I’ve seen us play all year.
“But we’ve bounced back before. We are looking forward to the rest of the regular season and getting geared up for the tournament. We just need to forget this game and move on.”
The Falcons banged out 12 hits. They got on the scoreboard in the second inning as they loaded the bases on a hit batsman and two singles. A one out, two-run double by Cory Ransom gave Firelands a 2-0 lead. A two-out RBI single followed by a two-run double pushed Firelands lead to 5-0 through three innings.
They added a single tally in the fourth inning and then things went haywire for the Dukes in the fateful fifth. The Falcons had five hits, but were aided by three Duke errors and a walk.
The Dukes tried to avert the shutout in the fifth, loading the bases on a base hit by Jacob Evans, a walk to Polen and Wayde Bowman was hit by a pitch. But the game ended on a double play.
Collecting hits for the Dukes were Evans, Riley Reyna and Tyler Moore, who extended his on-base streak to nine games. Unangst’s nine-game hitting streak was stopped.
With the win, Firelands improved to 12-1 in the LC-8 and clinched the league’s first baseball championship. The Dukes slipped to 7-5 in the league, but remain in a four-way battle for second with Keystone, Black River and Columbia. The Dukes are 12-6 overall.
They travel to Black River Monday for a 5 p.m. first pitch. The Pirates beat the Dukes in their first meeting, 8-6. League play wraps up Tuesday when the Dukes travel to Brookside. The regular season ends Friday at home with an independent clash versus Chippewa. Tournament play will follow.