As the Granville baseball team entered the dugout for the top of the sixth inning May 6, coach Vince Ghiloni delivered a simple message.
With the heart of the batting order coming up, the Blue Aces had to score. They did so on Zach Vanderink’s RBI single, and it was the only run of Granville’s 1-0 victory against Licking County League rival Newark Catholic.
The victory was the last one during Granville’s nine-game winning streak. Despite two following close losses, Granville still entered the Division II tournament this week as the area’s hottest team.
“The key really is that they know they can win now,” Ghiloni said. “We were 4-4, 5-5, 6-6 and 7-7. Then, we just went on a roll. They finally decided they can win games even when they are behind.”
Granville, seeded No. 8, opened Central District play at home against No. 25 Columbus South on Tuesday. The winner visits No. 4 Bishop Watterson on Thursday with potential meetings with No. 2 Bexley and No. 3 Jonathan Alder ahead.
“This was good for us because lately we have actually have been winning fairly easy,” Ghiloni said after the NC win. “This was a good one for us because we know once we go through that first game, for us to win it will be games exactly like this.”
Against NC, Zach Blumling led off the inning with a single. No. 3 hitter Sam Stewart then laid down a sacrifice bunt to set the stage for Vanderink, who has shot up the area leaderboard in RBIs the past few weeks.
“Before, we just couldn’t find those hitters,” Ghiloni said. “This time around, if we get a guy on and move him to second base, it seems like we have the RBI guys to come through. … But we always tell our guys that it is not the guy that got the RBI. It’s the guy that got the bunt down to move him over. It’s a team effort.”
Offense has been a big factor in helping Granville shake free from the .500 mark. The top half of the Blue Aces’ order has on average raised its batting average 50 points during the winning streak. Blumling and leadoff hitter Ryan Blessard are hovering around .400 and in the LCL top 10.
“I don’t know what (the difference is),” Vanderink said. “We have our hitting come around, and we have just been performing.”
“Before, we just couldn’t find those hitters,” Ghiloni said. “This time around, if we get a guy on and move him to second base, it seems like we have the RBI guys to come through.”
Pitching and defense has been a staple all season for the Blue Aces, and that was apparent again in the victory at NC. Freshman right-hander Justin Carson won his fourth consecutive game, throwing his third shutout.
Granville made two errors behind Carson, but four key defensive plays erased them. With two on in the third inning, David Cox and Matt Crudle combined to turn a pivotal double play.
“That’s our 18th double play,” Ghiloni said. “The most we had ever had in a season before was maybe 12. It’s pitch to contact. Don’t walk anybody, and these guys will make it happen. Defensively, we are very strong.”