ATHENS – The Lima Locos enjoy these marathon games.
And now they will play for a championship.
Locos third baseman Cody Strong delivered and RBI single to right field to break up a 3-3 tie and lift the Locos to a 4-3, 14-inning victory over Southern Ohio to clinch the best of 3 semifinal series Friday at Bob Wren Stadium.
The Locos won the series, 2-1.
“I wanted to get something to the outfield and hit it hard,” Strong said. “I got jammed and just muscled it out to the outfield. … When it landed, I knew it was a run.”
In the top of the 14th inning, Matt Furuto singled and with one out. Casey Schroeder singled to put runners at first and second.
With two outs, Strong singled to right to bring home Furuto with the game-winning run. Strong had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the 13th inning.
The Locos advance to the Great Lakes Collegiate League championship series against LickingCounty.
In the best of 3 championship series, Game 1 will be at 7 p.m. tonight in Lima. Games 2 and 3 will be in LickingCounty.
The Locos came back from losing the first game in the series, 16-1 in Lima.
“They’re fighters,” Locos coach Chad Ehrnsberger said. “They could have very easily just rolled over and said, ‘You guys can just move on to the championship.’ We didn’t do that. We came out and basically pounded them the next day. And today it was a great baseball game, both ways.”
Strong added, “We turned it around. It (the first game) was a little bit of a wake-up call.”
It was on July 13, that the same two teams played 15 innings, with the Locos pulling out a 12-11 win.
This time it was Locos reliever Aaron McRee who came up huge.
McRee came on and dominated from the ninth to the 13th inning.
McRee came on the ninth with runners at first and second and no outs. After a walk, the bases were loaded with one out.
He then got league MVP Jesse Puscheck to ground into a short-to-home fielder’s choice. McRee then got Taylor Burch to pop up to third to escape damage.
He pitched six scoreless innings for the win. McRee gave up only one hit, struck out two and walked two.
McRee threw 67 pitches, 44 for strikes. He threw first-pitch strikes to 16 of 20 hitters. He threw 1-2-3 innings in the 11th, 12th and 13th.
“I was excited when I went out there. I wanted the opportunity,” McRee said. … “It’s always great when you can get ahead of a hitter. I just went out there and pounded the zone.”
McRee liked all his pitches.
“In the beginning, it was my fastball (that was working), but then later on I got my slider working and kept getting ahead.”
In the 14th, James Coates singled with one out. But Schroeder threw him out stealing second for the second out. Dalton Busby flew out to center to end it.
Schroeder caught all 14 innings for the Locos.
“Aron went strong and pounded the strike zone low. He mixed his fastball and slider well and kept them off balance,” Schroeder said.
The Copperheads took a 1-0 lead in the second on an RBI by Coates.
The Locos scored two in the fourth to take a 2-1. A.J. Flores walked and came home on Schroeder’s RBI triple to right-center field. Zack Fields’ sacrifice fly to left made it 2-1 Locos.
Furuto supplied an RBI single to center in the fifth to give the Locos a 3-1 lead.
The Copperheads scored two in the eight off Locos closer Art Warren. Warren hit Busby and walked Puscheck. A balk moved the runners over to second and third.
The Locos also played outstanding defense, with four big plays, including a diving catch in right-center field by. Flores. The left side of the infield with Jess Posey at third and Shawn Sanders at short continually made big plays for outs.
Colton Turner shot a two-run single down the right-field line to tie it at 3.
Anthony Misiewicz, the Copperheads’ closer, threw 106 pitches, as he threw 6.2 innings, giving up two hits. He struck out seven and walked four.
For the Locos, Furuto went 2 for 5 with an RBI. Schroeder went 2 for 6 with a triple and an RBI.
Furuto ended up hitting .462 for the series, going 6 for 13 with two doubles, a triple and four RBIs.
“It was a battle throughout and we just kept pushing and it turned out great,” Furuto said. “I knew this would be a battle because I knew both teams wanted it.”
Coates ended up 2 for 7. Stone and Eddie Sutton had two hits each.
“Baseball’s a funny game,” Schroeder said. “The first night we were kind of down in the dumps after that embarrassing performance. We bounced back last night and tonight was just a great baseball game. We grinded and pushed through and came out on top.”