Based on the game’s hitting stats, Thursday’s Toledo Area Athletic Conference baseball matchup between visiting Gibsonburg and Toledo Christian figured to be one-sided in favor of the host.
Instead, the Golden Bears and pitcher Gabe Hickman, who “scattered” 14 hits, kept things close until the final out before falling 4-3 to TC and ace lefty Kody Brown.
The win by the Eagles (15-5, 6-2 TAAC) kept them in a first-place tie with Northwood and dropped Gibsonburg (19-3, 5-3) back into a second-place tie with preseason favorite Cardinal Stritch and Ottawa Hills.
“I’m ecstatic, so I’m trying not to focus on some of the mental errors we had running the bases today,” Eagles first-year coach Tab Greenlee said. “But I’m feeling phenomenally about these boys, and Kody Brown just pitched lights out.”
Brown (4-2), who has signed to pitch at Bowling Green State University next year, was adequately sharp, allowing seven hits and walking two while throwing 64 of his 95 pitches for strikes.
He also got an abundance of offensive support with the Eagles doubling the Bears’ hit total, an outburst highlighted by a pair of home runs.
Kyle Kempton rapped a two-run shot 325 feet to left field for a 2-1 lead in the first inning, and Brett Freeman slammed a 385-foot blast to center field to make it 3-1 in the third.
“Our hitting was unbelievable today,” Brown said. “Brett Freeman and Kyle Kempton hitting home runs, those were two crucial, big hits. It was a huge win for us. It builds our team’s confidence, and we’re ready to go. We want to win the TAAC.”
Toledo Christian did virtually nothing with its other nine hits before plating the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth.
That’s when Branden Eldred led off with a single to left that put him at second base after a bobble by Bears outfielder Matt Lutzman. Aaron Dunn bunted Eldred to third, and he scored on a single through the left side by Andrew Gast.
Judd Nearhood (3 for 4) led TC’s hit parade, and Jordan Adesi, Caleb Andrews, and Gast were each 2 for 3.
Gibsonburg, which is bidding to break a single-season school record for wins (21 in 2012), scored first in the game.
Sam Kohler (2 for 2) doubled to left, advanced on Andrew Cantrell’s flyout, then scored on a Brown wild pitch.
The Golden Bears made it 3-2 in the fifth when Andrew Dellinger reached on an infield single, was bunted to second by Preston Arriaga, and moved to third on a passed ball.
Dellinger scored on Jordan Kreglow’s RBI groundout.
Gibsonburg then tied the game in the sixth when Brent Hayward tripled to center and scored on Derek Angelone’s double to left-center.
“Hickman really battled for us on the mound,” Gibsonburg coach Kyle Rase said. “They hit a couple home runs, but we had our chances. We gave them some extra bases and extra runners at times, which ended up coming back to haunt us.
“We’ve got to keep on getting better for the tournament, and take care of ourselves in the TAAC and see what happens. It’s been a wild year so far with everyone beating each other.”