Elder coach Mark Thompson talks to his team before the Panthers faced La Salle on April 1, 2015 at the Panther Athletic Complex.
PRICE HILL – An essential trademark of experience is an inability to panic with the game on the line.
On Wednesday night, Elder’s experience bled through, and the Panthers didn’t rattle.
Elder scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to overcome a 2-0 deficit and beat La Salle 3-2 in a Greater Catholic League South opener at the Panther Athletic Complex.
“That’s what happens when you have 10 seniors and a lot of returning guys,” said Elder coach Mark Thompson. “They have the experience and they believed.”
Drama came to head and boiled over in the bottom half of the seventh.
Elder senior shortstop Kyle Orloff scored the game-winning run on a passed ball. But, the comeback started with singles from seniors Greg Cappel and Sam Coffaro, creating first and third with no one out. Elder was prepared to bunt, but Coffaro left first early and ran into an out. With one out, and Josh Boeckmann at third (he pinch ran for Cappel), senior Nick Duke laid down a nice bunt and an errant throw sent him to second base. Boeckmann scored on a wild pitch, then Orloff singled and Elder, again, had runners at first and third with one out. Next, senior second baseman Zach Vorherr singled and scored Duke to tie the game, 2-2.
That’s when La Salle senior starter Nick Ernst, a Miami University signee, was replaced on the mound by Jake Kaiser, who got Elder senior Shane Smith, who’s also signed with Miami, to ground out to second and Orloff advanced to third. Kaiser’s pitch got by catcher Nigel Williams and Orloff scurried home for the win.
“GCL game, first one of the year, it was awesome. In our lineup, we have a lot of seniors who’ve been here before. We know the game’s not over until the last out is made,” said Shane Smith.
For the first six innings, Elder and La Salle were tangled in a pitcher’s duel between Smith and Ernst – both aces of their staffs. Smith had a no-hitter through three innings and Ernst came two outs away from a complete-game shutout. Smith exited after six, followed by Cappel and Noah Willman who closed out the seventh.
“I kind of knew before the game it was gonna be an intense battle; two good teams going at it,” Thompson said.