TALLMADGE: The Highland baseball team is in control of the Suburban League with two games to play.
Highland asserted itself quickly against host Tallmadge with two-run homers by junior Ricky Esker and senior Chad Sedio in the first three innings en route to a 6-2 victory at Dave Young Field on Wednesday.
Junior right-hander Jacob Pries pitched effectively for the Hornets (19-5, 10-2), outdueling Blue Devils senior ace Tucker Linder.
Pries gave up one run on seven hits, struck out four and walked two in 5⅓ innings.
Highland needs to win one of its remaining league games against Wadsworth on Monday or Friday to win its first league baseball championship since 1989.
“We wanted to get to a point where we controlled our own destiny,” Highland coach Jeff Rollyson said.
“We felt that we were going to compete with Tallmadge. We got everything we could have asked for. We got quality at-bats, we got good pitching, we made most of the routine plays and we really scraped and clawed for everything we got.”
Highland also defeated Tallmadge 7-6 in eight innings Tuesday.
It took just nine pitches for Highland to lead 2-0 in the first inning Wednesday. Senior Jerry Scholle singled and Esker hit a home run to left field on a count of 0-2.
Tallmadge (13-7, 9-3) scored in the first, when Linder singled in senior Danny Blake.
The Hornets took a three-run lead in the third, when Luke Raley singled and scored on Sedio’s two-run homer to right-center field.
“He really turned on that ball and got all of it,” Rollyson said. “That made it 4-1 at that point. It did seem to take the air out of the tire, so to speak.
“I kept telling my guys that Tallmadge is very capable of putting runs on the board very quickly.”
Sedio said he switched to an aluminum bat recently after using a wooden bat.
“It felt good,” Sedio said. “I had to switch over because my wood bat snapped in half. I saw a dead-red fastball and just let it fly. I like the bat. It feels good. It got a little insurance for us and helped our pitchers out.”
The Hornets added single runs in the fourth and fifth innings without the benefit of a hit.
Scholle walked to start the fourth, reached second base on an error, stole third base and scored on an error.
Sedio got hit by a pitch to open the fifth, stole second and third bases and scored on a balk.
Linder pitched five innings and gave up six runs (five earned) on seven hits. He struck out five and walked three.
Linder concluded the scoring with a solo homer to left in the seventh inning.
“We just had awful approaches at the plate with a lot of waving at curve balls,” Tallmadge coach Kenny Linn said. “We got outhit, outpitched, outplayed and outcoached. The better team won.”
Pries called the win a great accomplishment for the program.
“It really catapults us into a position to have a run in the playoffs and possibly win the Suburban League,” he said.
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.