DAYTON — Elida has dominated the annual Tyler Williams-Scott Harmon Memorial game since its inception in 2007 as the Bulldogs have won all but one of the yearly contests.
But prior to this year’s morning affair at Fifth-Third Bank Field, home of the Dayton Dragons, Lima Senior head coach Casey Reed challenged his team to get the win and the Spartans responded with a 6-4 victory Saturday.
With the win, Lima Senior improves to 7-13 on the season. Elida slips to 17-6.
The annual event that pits these two teams is played to honor Tyler Williams, a Lima Senior graduate, and Scott Harmon, an Elida graduate, who were killed in a tragic bus accident as teammates on the Bluffton University baseball team in 2007. A total of seven were killed in the crash.
“Our kids came out and gave everything they had,” Reed said. “I challenged our kids. ‘Go out there and play. We are a better team than our record shows,’ and the kids put up a heck of an effort in this great atmosphere.”
Perhaps heeding the coach’s challenge the most was Spartan hurler Bryce Binkley. The lanky right-hander went the distance to record the win and garner the game’s most valuable player honors.
“Bryce takes an inning or two to get loose but if we can ride the storm through he is lights out and we know he is a kid that if we put him out there we can win a baseball game,” Reed said.
In his seven innings of work, Binkley surrendered 11 hits while fanning three and walking one. While not overpowering, Binkley induced key ground balls and got excellent support from his defense that came up with a couple of defensive gems including a key running grab from Spartan center fielder Brayden O’Dell in the second inning.
Binkley gave up two early runs in the first inning but then threw five innings of scoreless ball. In the seventh, Binkley appeared to be heading towards the win and another scoreless frame when he fanned the first batter, walked the second and then fanned the third batter to record two outs with a runner on.
An error followed by a base hit allowed two runs to score and pull the Bulldogs within two, 6-4. However a screaming line drive off the bat of Brayden Lybarger was snagged by Spartan shortstop Caleb Dugan to secure the victory.
“Honestly I just found my groove,” Binkley said after the troublesome first inning. “The first inning was kind of a struggle but once I found my spots and got the fastball in there everything started to work.”
While Binkley was wielding his magic on the mound, the Spartan offense was coming up with timely hits against solid Bulldog pitching. Like Elida, the Spartans scratched out two runs in the first off starter Noah Adcock. Spartan Adrien Bowsher came up with the big hit with a seeing-eye single up the middle to drive in the two runs.
The Spartans tagged Adcock for an additional run in the fourth and then manufactured three key insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth. Dugan, who was 3 for 4 with two runs, drove in Dakota Seaman who had opened the frame with a double.
Elida head coach Todd Grapner who did not want to take anything away from Binkley’s pitching performance, said his team came out flat.
“We just didn’t make plays early and let them score and felt we should have been out of the first with no runs and then we gave them two,” Grapner said. “We had bad base running and had three guys picked off today and you can’t do that because Bryce Binkley is a good pitcher.”
Reed called the win huge and a big confidence builder heading into the final week of the regular season and the postseason.
“We have had a lot of injuries and it has kind of derailed us a little bit with our expectations but we are finally healthy and I think this shows our guys what we can do when we put it all together,” Reed said.