Beverly/Lowell falls 5-1 to Pickerington at state

LANCASTER – Beverly/Lowell Post 389/750 came into the American Legion state baseball tournament on fire, having won 18 of its previous 20 games.

However, Pickerington Post 283 came in even hotter. That was evident Wednesday evening as Pickerington (34-7) breezed past Beverly/Lowell (26-14) 5-1 in the first round of the state tourney at Al Beavers Field.

“They beat us in all facets tonight,” said Beverly/Lowell head coach Todd Engle. “I tip my hat to (Pickerington). We hope to get back to them and see them again.”

Pickerington, which has won two state championships since 2007, played like a team comfortable on the big stage. Post 283 scored all of its runs in the first five innings to set the tone early and force Beverly/Lowell to play comeback.

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Jordan Grubb deposited a 3-1 Ben Barnas offering over the left field fence to give Pickerington an early 1-0 lead. Post 283 found two-out lightning again in the third. With Adam Snyder on second at two down, Chris Brake took Barnas’ 2-1 pitch the other way to right to bring in the run and make it 2-0.

Pickerington small-balled its way to two more runs in the fourth. Steve Asburry and Doug Connor led off the inning with back-to-back singles. A sacrifice bunt by Derek Helbing and a squeeze bunt by Jake Newton plated Asburry to make it 3-0 and sent Connor to third. After Adam Snyder walked to put runners on the corners, Pickerington executed a double-steal to score Connor and put Beverly/Lowell in a 4-0 hole. That forced Engle to change his approach.

“We’ve talked about that as coaches, where if we’re up or the game’s tied, we can still bunt, hit and run, play small ball, but when you get behind 4-0, you really don’t feel like you can afford to give up outs as far as bunting and moving runners that way. You only have so many outs,” Engle said.

After going down in order in the first three innings, B/L was finally able to get base-runners against Pickerington starter Tyler Magley in the bottom of the fourth. Unfortunately for B/L, those base-runners didn’t last long.

Jake Ullman led off the inning with a walk followed by a single up the middle by Ethan Estes. With Derek Layton up to bat, Magley picked Estes off at first base for the first out. Magley would end up walking Layton, but on ball four, Ullman strayed too far from second and got into a rundown, eventually being tagged for the second out. Beverly/Lowell could have had the bases loaded and nobody out with its cleanup hitter up, but ran itself out of the inning.

Pickerington got yet another two-out run in the fifth when Asburry’s double down the third base line scored Brake from first to make it a 5-0 game.

Post 389/750 finally got on the board in the seventh. With one out in the inning, Gunnar Smith grounded to short but was able to reach second on a throwing error. Next batter Kyler Dennis ripped Beverly/Lowell’s only extra-base hit, a double to left-center, to drive in Smith and make it 5-1. Another base-running blunder would prevent any other damage. On a Phillip Hoffman groundout to third, Dennis broke from second on the throw but first baseman Connor fired a strike back to Grubb at third to complete the 5-3-5 double play.

Beverly/Lowell had action in the eighth as well. Bryce Gandee led off with a single to left, but when next batter Devin Leister grounded sharply back up the box, second baseman Tyler Makuch made a nice diving stop to get the force out at second. That proved crucial as Joel Estes followed with another single to left which could have plated a run or at least loaded the bases with the middle of the order due up. Pickerington made several nice plays throughout the game.

“We were putting it in play but at this level, teams from here on out are going to make the majority of the plays,” Engle said. “We’ve got to expect that and fight through that. For the most part we had quality (at-bats). We hit the ball on the nose several times, but they did what they had to do.”

B/L would chase Magley from the game with two outs in the eighth, but reliever Kyle Ginn got the final out of the inning and then pitched a perfect ninth to end the game.

Magley went 7.2 innings, striking out one and walking three on 91 pitches (53 strikes), to earn the victory. Barnas (3-3) struck out two and walked three in seven innings. He hurled 86 pitches (52 strikes) in the loss. Phillip Hoffman pitched a scoreless final two innings for Beverly/Lowell, striking out two and walking two.

Beverly/Lowell will play Prospect at 10 a.m. this morning in an elimination game. B/L, which defeated Prospect 9-1 earlier in the season at the same venue, will go with Dennis on the mound. Dennis pitched a complete game shutout against Cambridge in his last outing during the district tournament at Don Schaly Stadium. B/L might be without shortstop and leadoff hitter Ullman, who left Wednesday’s game early with a back injury. Engle is staying positive, though.

“We’re gonna do some nice things. I don’t think we’re done yet,” Engle said. “We are the only team in the state of Ohio that has lost their first game of the state tournament and come back through and won it (2006). I think we’re gonna make some noise before it’s over.”

Beverly/Lowell needs a win today to stay alive. If it does win, it would play again Friday at 1 p.m.