Butler wins with drama
Walk-off victory gets Tornado baseball victory
Butler's baseball team came from behind Monday to get the Cody Herald-era off on the right foot.
Justin Stewart's single to right field in the bottom of the seventh inning drove in Isaiah Lucas with the winning run as the Golden Tornado edged New Castle, 4-3, in the season opener for both teams at Kelly Automotive Park.
The deciding hit came after New Castle reliever Mark Torsello took the mound in place of Zach Walker, who had surrendered a double to Lucas and a single to pinch-hitter Colby Anderson to begin the frame.
“The pitch I hit was an inside fastball,” said Stewart, Butler's catcher. “You have to be looking fastball in that situation and just adjust to a curveball or changeup if that's what you get.”
Butler starter Brandon Fleeger left the game with two outs in the top of the seventh in favor of Grant Metzger. The latter walked Rocco Bernadino before striking out Nick DeRosa on a high fastball to end the frame.
Fleeger allowed the three runs (one earned) on just two hits while striking out six and walking one.
“Brandon isn't going to blow it by anybody, but he does what he's supposed to do,” said Herald. “He throws strikes and if the ball is put in play, his defense is behind him to make the play.”
Butler's defense had trouble completing that equation in the top of the fourth when three errors helped the Red Hurricanes plate two runs to take a 3-1 lead.
Brayden Cartwright reached on an error to start the inning. With one out, Torsello reached on a fielding miscue to put runners at first and third. Courtesy runner Marcus Hooker came home on a double-steal attempt, during which the ball was thrown away to allow Torsello to reach third base. He scored moments later on a wild pitch.
Fleeger finally put out the fire by striking out Bernadino.
“You hear us stressing to the players, 'So what,'” said Herald. “A player strikes out, so what, there's another at-bat coming up. A player makes a mistake in the field, so what, there's another ball coming his way. That inning could have kept us from winning today, but the guys kept battling.”
Frustration was not over for the Tornado. In the bottom of the fourth, Connor Ollio singled, stole second and scored on Jake Keene's base hit. But Keene was then thrown out at home plate while trying to score on Lucas' first double of the game off DeRosa, New Castle's starter on the mound.
The Hurricanes led 3-2 after the eventful fourth frame, but Fleeger denied them any insurance runs over his final 2 2/3 innings.
Butler tied the game in the bottom of the sixth when Ollio doubled, stole third base and scored on a wild pitch from Walker.
The Tornado ended the game with nine hits, including three doubles. Seven of the hits came from the fourth inning on.
“I thought we did a great job offensively,” said Herald. “We stuck to the plan and didn't give up many swings. When you do that, good things happen.”
Butler was the first to score, plating a run in the bottom of the first inning. Nick Kibbie came home on Ollio's groundout.
New Castle answered in the top of the third on Anthony Cioffi's two-out RBI-double. It proved to be the Hurricanes' final hit of the game.
“It's tough early in the season when you haven't faced a lot of live pitching,” said New Castle coach Mark Elisco. “Butler's bats started to come around later in the game. For the first game of the season, I thought it was well-played and both teams pitched well.”
New Castle 001 200 0 — 3 2 0
Butler 100 101 1 — 4 9 3
W: Grant Metzger .1 IP (1K, 1BB). L: Zach Walker 2+ IP (0K, 0BB).
New Castle (0-1): Anthony Cioffi 2B RBI, Mark Torsello R, Rocco Bernadino 1B R, Marcus Hooker R
Butler (1-0): Nick Kibbie 2-1B R, Connor Ollio 1B 2B 2R RBI, Jake Keene 1B RBI, Isaiah Lucas 2-2B R, Justin Stewart 1B RBI, Colby Anderson 1B