XENIA — The sun was shining, choir music filled the air and birds soared gracefully overheard. It was NOT the kind of atmosphere for a baseball game, and Zach Wylie knew it.
So with a break in the fifth inning of Sunday’s scoreless Xenia Scouts-Galion Graders game, and the choir still singing blissfully over the Grady’s Field loudspeakers, Wylie took matters into his own hands. He took a few bats with him as well.
Wylie tossed the Scouts’ bats out in front of the dugout and began screaming at them. “Hey bats, waaaaaake uuuuup!!!!”
And they did.
Wylie’s wailing woke the Graders’ bats, too. Zack DeThomasis tripled and later scored for Galion’s first run of the game in the top-half of the sixth.
Xenia responded with a run in the sixth, two more in the seventh, and then David Gaunt bashed a three-run home run over the left field fence in the eighth to earn the Scouts (14-6) a 6-2 win in the second game of Sunday’s doubleheader. They’d won the first, 3-1, too, to stay in a first-place tie with the Hamilton Joes in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League.
Wylie didn’t play in the contest, but his team named him Offensive Player of the Game.
“I’m not sure where our energy was,” Xenia skipper Bubba Cates said. “We were not as into things as we had been on some other days. Yet, when we got opportunities to put ourselves ahead – in both games – we did that. We took advantage of those things. I think that’s the mark of a team that knows how to win.”
After Wylie shook the bats awake, Wyatt Hogan scored Xenia’s first run. He drew a lead-off walk, moved to second on Jordan Shaffer’s sacrifice bunt, stole third, then raced home on Lee Solomon’s hard-hit groundout to the Graders’ shortstop.
Christian Binger and David Gauntt both got on base to start the seventh, and the two Scouts scored. First, Lincoln Reed singled in Binger, then Gauntt motored in thanks to Levi Gilcrease’s sacrifice fly to put the Scouts out in front, 3-1.
Gauntt then broke things open with his fifth home run of the season, scoring Austin Orr and Binger as well.
“David got the big hit for us, but those two guys in front of him got on base and set us up right. That was big,” said Cates. “We needed another run to give us some kind of a cushion, then David got ahold of one and gave us a good cushion.”
Dylan Donley limited Galion to one hit through seven innings of work. But when he walked the first two Grader runners in the eighth, Joey Leavitt pitched a strong last two innings to seal the deal.
Kevin Schrock scored for Galion (4-12) in the eighth to pull within a run of Xenia at the time, but Leavitt shut the Graders down the rest of the way.
“Donley has been on the mound 4-5 times for us this summer and he gets better and better each time he’s out there. He pitched a great game for us today,” Cates said. “And Leavitt came in and pitched well in the situation we were in, and that was big for us.”
The Scouts have a busy week ahead of them, and a crucial one at that. They play today and Wednesday at Hamilton’s Foundation Field in a battle for first place with the Joes. Both games are set for a 7:05 p.m. start.
Xenia hosts the Grand Lake Monarchs for a 6:05 p.m. game Thursday, then they head to Flat Rock, Mich. for a game against the same Monarchs. The Scouts then close out the weekend with a home-and-home matchup with the Lima Locos, first in Lima for the Fourth of July; then back home on Grady’s Field for a 4:05 p.m. Sunday contest in Xenia.
Choir music is optional.