GALION — It spreads like a wild fire.
First, Lee Solomon barrels on home to score from second on an infield error. Then, David Gauntt legs a routine single into a double by taking advantage of a lazy outfield throw.
Those plays ignite the Scouts in a big way.
It happened again Sunday night, and helped Xenia clinch a third-place finish in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League. Xenia trailed 6-3 almost midway through the team’s final regular-season game, but exploded for 11 runs the rest of the way for a convincing 14-7 win over the Galion Graders at Heise Park.
The win earned Xenia its 24th win of the season, the most in the franchise’s history. The team’s previous best was a 23-19 season in 2011.
“I just like to do what I can to be aggressive on base,” Solomon said of his base running talents. “And it does get the guys fired up, too. I like being able to do that.”
On one of five Galion errors in the game, and the second of three errors in the third inning, Solomon raced in from second base on an infield error by the Graders’ first baseman. Xenia scored three unearned runs in the inning to take a brief 3-2 lead.
Galion (15-22) responded with four runs of its own in the fourth inning to take a 6-3 lead.
The Scouts (24-16) countered with three runs in the fifth, and three more in the sixth, to go in front for good, 9-3. But they weren’t done.
After both sides plated a run in the the eighth, Xenia sent 10 batters to the plate in the top of the ninth and scored four more runs for the final 14-7 difference.
“We’ve got four or five guys on this team who are pretty good runners, and we just turn them loose,” Xenia skipper Bubba Cates said. “I’m trying to help them to know how to steal bases a little bit better. Some of them just needed a push in that direction. … I think the aggressiveness we show on the bases, it bleeds over to everybody else on the team.
“One of our goals is to equip these guys, so that when they get back to their schools they can make a difference there, too.”
The top four batters in the Scouts order — Solomon, Christian Binger, Kyle Carnahan and Gauntt — collected 10 of Xenia’s 15 hits in the game.
Gauntt went 3-for-5 at the plate with a single and two doubles. As part of the four-run ninth, Gauntt saw the Graders outfielder missed his cutoff man, and so the Scouts slugger just motored on to second on the miscue. He scored twice and drove in four runs. With those four RBIs, Gauntt finished the season as the league’s RBI leader with 39. That total is also a Scouts season record.
With Sunday night’s convincing win, Xenia will host the Lake Erie Monarchs in Wednesday’s play-in game, at Grady’s Field on the Athletes In Action sports complex. Lake Erie finished sixth in the GLSCL standings with a 21-18 record, a half game out of fifth place. They won five of their final 10 games of the season.
Xenia and the Monarchs, who call Flat Rock, Mich. home, split during the regular season. The Scouts won the first two games of a home-and-home series in June; Lake Erie won both games of the home-and-home series in July.
A game time for Wednesday’s game had yet to be announced as of Monday night.
RECORD SETTING SEASON: Not only have the Scouts set the franchise mark for most team wins in a season, several individual records were also set: Gauntt and Washburn University teammate Kyle Carnahan tied for the team record in home runs in a season with seven each; and Quentin McGrath set the team mark for pitching wins in a season with six.
HOT DOG WINNINGS: It’s a 128-mile drive, but kids who like grabbing loot for chasing down foul balls might want to catch a game at Galion’s Heise Park Field. While a foul ball can earn a kid a piece of candy at the Xenia Scouts’ concession stand, it’s worth a hot dog at Heise Park.