By John Bombatch
XENIA — The first-place Xenia Scouts didn’t seem to have much trouble getting runners on the Grady’s Field base paths, they just couldn’t get them to home plate.
The visiting Galion Graders, owners of the worst record in the Great Lakes Summer Collegiate League’s North Division going into the game, smacked a pair of solo home runs late in Tuesday’s game, then tagged on some insurance runs in the ninth to claim a 6-3 win.
The Scouts (20-12) put their first two batters on base in the first, second and fifth innings, but failed to score a run each time.
Meanwhile, Galion (10-23) scored a pair of runs in the second to grab a 2-0 lead. Sinclair Community College product Tyler Cowler led off with a single, went to third on Evan Lee’s double to right field, then Cowler scored on an infield single hit by Ohio State’s Matt Carpenter. Lee then was able to score the Graders’ second run on an infield throwing error.
Xenia’s John Sharpe lined a solo home run over the left-field fence for Xenia’s first score, in the third.
Then in the sixth, the Scouts collected a trio of hits to score two runs and take a 3-2 lead. Ryan O’Hearn’s ground-rule double knocked in Cary Holloway with the game-tying run, then Chandler Adkins’ single scored O’Hearn.
More home runs were hit in Tuesday’s game (three) than there had been hit all season at Grady’s Field (two). Unfortunately for the Scouts, the Graders hit two of those dingers.
Graders catcher Alex Laikos smashed a home run to tie things up at 3-all in the seventh. Laikos had crashed into a backstop fencepost in the first inning, but the burly Kent State freshman stayed in the game.
Cowler then put Galion out in front, 4-3, with a solo shot in the eighth inning.
Galion broke the game open by scoring two more times in their top half of the ninth inning.
Ohio State reliever Kent Axcell struck out two of the three Scouts batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the Graders’ win.
Despite the loss, Xenia remains in a tie for first in the GLSCL South Division. That’s because co-leading Hamilton lost Tuesday night to the Lake Erie Monarchs, at home, by a 6-2 score.
Xenia and Hamilton’s losses, combined with a doubleheader sweep by the third-place Cincinnati Steam over the Irish Hills (Mich.) Leprechauns, tightens the divisional race a bit. The Steam are now 2 1/2 games behind Hamilton and Xenia, while the Licking County Settlers (7-2 winners over Lorain County) are now three games back.
Xenia and Galion will meet again at 7:05 p.m. today at Grady’s Field.