SALINEVILLE-After returning nine players from last season's Division IV state runner-up, the Springfield Tigers knew they would enter this season as a marked team. Through three league games, they have certainly gotten everybody's best shot.
After two tough wins against Columbiana, Springfield found itself tied through four innings against Southern. From there, however, the roof caved in on the inexperienced Indians and the Tigers to pulled away, 17-2, Thursday.
Springfield improves to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. Southern falls to 4-2 and 0-2 ITCL.
"Every game this year we expect everybody to come out and play hard against us," Springfield catcher Hunter Snyder said. "We have to come out every day and expect other teams to play like its the state championship."
Southern certainly did for a while.
In just their third year since re-starting the varsity program, the Indians came out ready to battle. Freshman right-hander Domanick Michael kept the Indians within striking distance, walking just one and allowing two runs through the first four innings.
"Domanick gave us a chance tonight," Southern coach Jason Glover said. He is going to be a really good pitcher for us. He's only a freshman, but has been playing travel baseball for a number of years and is more experienced than a lot of guys on this team."
In the bottom of the fourth, with two on and one out, Springfield first baseman Joe Wrask couldn't handle a Coty Wetzel hard grounder and all of a sudden, the game was tied 2-2. Garrett Coil led the Indians with a double and a single, while Caleb Gotschall had a pair of singles.
"We thought we could be competitive tonight," Glover said. "Our guys went out there and played right with one of the best teams in the state for four innings."
Springfield finally got to Michael in the fifth inning. Snyder put the Tigers ahead to stay with a double to the wall in left, while a fielding error let in two more runs. The Tigers stretched it to 10-2 with five more runs in the sixth on the strength of a two-run single by Snyder and an RBI triple by Ryan Kohler. Snyder had two hits and five RBIs, while Kohler finished with a single, a double, a triple and two steals.
"(Michael) had a solid tailing fastball and a good off-speed pitch," Snyder said. "I think our guys had trouble seeing the ball early in the game. Once the game progressed we started picking it up better and got the bats going."
Springfield sophomore Graham Mincher took over on the mound for freshman starter Russell Seymour in the fifth and never let the Indians back in the game.
"With how close we came to winning it all last year, teams are certainly going to play their best against us and our guys also put a lot of pressure on themselves to get back" Springfield coach Matt Weymer said. "I also think when you have that success in the postseason you look forward to that so much that it sometimes leads to sleepwalking during the regular season. We need to keep staying in the moment."
Springfield embarks on a three-plus hour road trip this weekend, playing two games at Western Ohio stalwart Minster while also playing Fort Loramie.
The Tiger are playing this season in Division III after a long string of success-including three state final appearances-in Division IV. The move means the Tigers will need to go through South Range, Youngstown Ursuline and Girard for a district title.
"I think the move is a bonus for us," Weymer said. "I think it's going to demand our focus a little more. We've been telling the guys all year that they have to raise their level."
SO: 0-0-0-2-0-0-0- 2- 9-6
SP-Russell Seymour, wp, (4IP, 2K, 3BB), Graham Mincher (3IP, 2K, 1BB) and Hunter Snyder.
SO-Domanick Michael, lp, (5IP, 3K, 2BB), Jesse McClurg (2IP, 2K, 1BB) and Jesse McClurg/Erick Woodburn.