Jul. 2—Josh Merchbaker delivered an all-around performance to help the Meadville ONE legion team secure a 5-4 lead against Edinboro Legion through 5.5 innings before the game was called due to darkness.
It was a shaky start for the Cochranton native at Eldred Glen on Friday. Merchbaker allowed two singles and two walks in the first four batters. Edinboro led 2-0 with zero outs before things started to click.
Edinboro's Brandon Dedrick drilled a deep fly out to center field before a shallow fly out was turned into a double play to escape the inning without any more damage.
Meadville's bats started hot from the get go. Gavin Beck nailed a triple to the left field wall on the first pitch to set the tone. Merchbaker followed with an RBI single to give the team a run. Owen Garvey singled to give the team two runners with zero outs, but two fielder's decisions and a strikeout ended the inning.
In the second, Merchbaker struck two batters out and forced a fly out to put his team behind the plate. In the bottom of the second, Merchbaker pounded a double to center field to bring Beck and Stuart Hochstetler home. Meadville led 3-2 through two innings of action.
"We jumped out early and that was the goal. We wanted to jump on them early and get ahead," Meadville ONE assistant coach Dean Wood said. "We had Merch on the mound and we knew he was gonna shove. Anytime you get an early lead with him, he loves pitching with a lead. So that was the goal."
In the third, Hochstetler laid down a perfect bunt and Wyatt Barzak showed off his wheels when reached home plate just in time.
The Meadville offense stayed hot in the fourth inning. Merchbaker opened with a double to the center field wall. He scored later in the inning off a Tai Hopkins single.
"He (Merchbaker) had a big night at the plate," Wood said. "That's his M.O. When he is pitching well it usually translates to the plate. He just oozes confidence."
Coming with the fifth inning was a steady downpour of rain. The rain, combined with impending darkness, made things difficult for both teams.
Meadville had an error and two walks in the inning before a single added two runs for Edinboro to cut Meadville's lead to 5-4. Merchbaker earned the final out of the inning on a strikeout.
"I'll blame it on the moisture hopefully. There were some routine plays we didn't make. Wetness or not, they need to be made and that extended some innings," Wood said. "Consequently, Josh wasn't going to go back out to pitch because he was at 100. We extended some innings for him and shouldn't have."
With Meadville up to bat, the team reached first on an error before two walks loaded the bases. At this point, the umpire called the game due to darkness.
The game will need to be made up at some point to complete all seven innings. It's the second game this season between Meadville and Edinboro that's been postponed due to darkness. Wood said the teams will likely meet for a doubleheader in the near future.
In the four and a half innings played, Meadville managed ten hits. Merchbaker went 3-3 with three RBIs and two doubles. On the mound, he struck out seven batters and two earned runs.
"Pitching, the first inning was rough, then I settled in. In the last inning I couldn't hold on to a breaking ball at all," Merchbaker said. "Hitting, I was happy. Last time we played them I was 1-4 and was frustrated, but today went pretty good."
Hochstetler also had multiple hits in the game. Beck scored two runs.
Meadville ONE is back in action on Tuesday to host Titusville at Eldred Glen at 6 p.m.
Prior to the Friday's game, there was a celebration for longtime Meadville High School baseball coach Bob Matthews. Matthews coached from 1968-1980 and compiled a 112-40 overall record with ten consecutive Section 2 championships. To commemorate the 77-year-old, a plaque will be permanently set up in the Bulldogs' dugout.
Edinboro Legion (4)
(AB-R-H-BI) Swanson 3-2-1-0, Fiscus 2-1-0-0, Bola 1-1-0-0, Doutt 3-0-1-2, Dedrick 2-0-0-0, Banks 3-0-2-2, Chorney 3-0-0-0, Morrow 2-0-1-0, Peyton 2-0-0-0. Totals 21-4-5-4.
MEADVILLE ONE (5)
(AB-R-H-BI) Beck 3-2-1-0, Merchabker 3-1-3-3, Garvey 3-0-1-0, Hopkins 3-0-1-1, Barzak 2-1-0-0, AJ Feleppa 3-0-1-0, Holeva 3-0-1-0, Hochstetler 3-1-2-1, Ang Feleppa 2-0-0-0, Deeter 1-0-0-0. Totals 26-5-10-5.
Edinboro 200 02 — 4 5 3
Meadville 121 10 — 5 10 2
2B: MD — Merchbaker 2.
3B: MD — Beck.
(IP-H-R-ER-SO-BB) ED — Morrow 4.1-10-5-2-8-3; MD — Merchbaker 5-5-4-2-7-4.
Alex Topor can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at .