WADSWORTH: Tallmadge played “small ball” to rattle together more than enough offense for starting pitcher Tucker Linder in the Blue Devils’ season-opening 9-3 win over Wadsworth at AC Field on Tuesday.

After Wadsworth drew first blood on junior Jack Pecnik’s RBI double to right-center field in the second inning, Tallmadge answered with a four-run third inning, assembled with two bunt hits, a walk and a Wadsworth error and capped by Matt Shomo’s two-run double to deep left field to give the Blue Devils a 4-1 lead.

The Blue Devils built their lead with base running and quality bunts and added to that lead with the same style of play.

Tallmadge coach Kenny Linn says his team is geared toward speed, so that’s what the Blue Devils will utilize in 2012.

“We have some really good speed at the top of the lineup and we plan on using it,” Linn said. “I like to put pressure on teams. We gave it a go today and it paid off.”

That was enough offense for Linder, who threw only four innings while on a pitch count of about 60 pitches. A Kent State recruit, he struck out three and gave up one run on five hits.

The Tallmadge ace is still stretching out his arm this early in the season.

“[Linder] has been limited so far and he’s working his way back,” Linn said. “We didn’t expect him to be real sharp, just wanted to see him throw at least four innings. When he got in some jams, we bailed him out. He’s on his way back for sure.”

Senior Nathan Jackson took over to throw the final three innings, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out three.

Leading 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Jackson got two outs and then gave up a single and walked two to bring the potential go-ahead run to the plate.

Jackson, despite still being in the process of returning from a major arm injury his sophomore season, struck out Wadsworth’s Aden Campbell swinging in the game’s biggest moment and calmly walked off the mound.

“For [Jackson], it’s outstanding,” Linn said. “He rehabbed and saw how his arm would respond. We’re excited to have him back because we didn’t think we’d ever see him [pitch] again.”

The Blue Devils tacked on three insurance runs in the top of the seventh.

Shomo finished the game with two doubles and two RBI. Danny Blake had two hits with a walk and a run scored.

Wadsworth starter Ryan Prather threw three innings, allowing six runs and striking out two.

Junior Kyle Karaffa led the way for the Grizzlies with two singles and a double and scored a run. Senior Brandon Palidar and junior Nate Jones each had an RBI single.

Wadsworth coach Greg Pickard knows Tallmadge’s experience and “small ball” is something the Grizzlies are still trying to attain.

“That’s an experienced ballclub over there,” Pickard said. “They put the pressure on our defense. They’re not just getting bunts down to move the runners, they’re getting them down for hits. Those are examples of things we’re trying to teach our kids.”

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the high school blog at Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.