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Bad game in Niles hurts Bulldogs' chances at league crown

April 24, 2019
Nik Zirounis , The Town Crier

The Poland baseball team's chance of capturing the first ever Northeast 8 Conference championship took a mighty blow last Wednesday in Niles.

Poland's boys barged onto Wilder Field ready to tie the 4-1 Red Dragons for first place in the division. Instead, they were sent home with a 4-1 loss and a second place standing. The 6-2 Bulldogs (8-4 overall) now must win out in the league and get a little help if they are to follow most of their athletic brethren and become champs in the first year conference.

The loss in Trumbull County did not come without the Bulldogs having multiple opportunities to score runs. Poland put three men on base in the top of the first inning, but allowed the Dragons to wiggle out of it when Michael Farber and Andrew Testa both struck out to thwart the rally. The visitors would load the bases again one inning later, but a nifty double play turned by the Dragons kept Poland off of the scoreboard once again. Down 2-0 in the top of the fifth, Poland finally pushed a runner across the plate when senior slugger Braeden O'Shaughnessy smacked an RBI double. That run was made possible because Alex Barth reached base for the Bulldogs after Niles' catcher dropped a third strike. Unfortunately, O'Shaughnessy's run scoring hit would be the only one all day for the Bulldogs. Niles would tack on two more runs in the home half of that frame to come away with their league-leading fifth win. Senior Braden Olson pitched his heart out in a losing effort for Poland. He worked five innings giving up four runs on just three hits. He struck out three Dragon hitters.

The Bulldogs entered that game in Niles with three consecutive conference victories and four wins in a row overall. The latest of those triumphs was a 3-1 win at Girard on April 16. Barth battled on the bump for the Bulldogs and earned the win. The senior shutdown the Indians on one run and five hits. He outdueled Girard's Braydon Freeland who was nearly as effective giving up three runs on five hits. Poland's bats finally got to Freeland with Farber leading the way. The senior catcher went 2 for 3 in the victory. Junior Jake Bacon was sizzling with 2 RBIs. Olson had a run scoring safety.

On April 11, the Bulldogs got the best of Boardman 5-4. Senior Jared Knight was the winning pitcher in this contest as he tossed shutout baseball into the sixth inning. Junior Mike Kushner saved the game for the Bulldogs in relief. O'Shaughnessy had an RBI double and an RBI single in the win. Farber also had a run plating double. Junior Zachary Yaskulka brought home a run with a sacrifice fly.

A rather comfortable 7-3 win and a 4-0 shutout of Lakeview added to Poland's mini win streak before the defeat to the Dragons. After concluding the string of four straight sensational games, Poland head coach Rich Murray wondered aloud if that would possibly give his bunch the positive momentum it needed heading into the stretch run of the regular season. A rematch with Girard was scheduled to take place this past Monday afternoon in Poland. Following that game was a trip to Springfield then a home-in-home series against Hubbard on April 29 and 30. Murray's men will need to play perfectly the rest of the league ledger and hope the Dragons slip up along the way if they want to call year one in the NE8 a success.



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