NEW WATERFORD, Ohio (WKBN) – The Heartland Christian Lions threw a curve at the Crestview Rebels Friday night in boys baseball action. That curve was in the form of a first-time starting junior pitcher that kept the Rebels off-balance in a 4-2 victory while improving the Lions’ record to 6-4 on the year.
Winning pitcher Jake Kling made his first career start tossing seven innings while surrendering just six hits and four walks. He would strike out eight Rebels batters in the game. He also helped his cause by leading the Lions with two hits.
“This was a big game for Kling,” Lions coach Mark Franken stated. “This was his first big moment on the mound. We have been kind of bringing him along slowly. He kept telling me that I got this. He is our hardest thrower. He just isn’t polished yet.”
A critical inning in the game occurred in the sixth with the Lions clinging to a slim 2-1 lead. Kling led off the frame with a single, followed by Drew Walker getting hit by a pitch, and Nate Garzanich drawing a walk to load the bases. Both Kling and Walker would eventually score on wild pitches to push their advantage to 4-1.
The Rebels, who drop to 9-2 on the season, would start their half of the sixth identically as they loaded the bases following a walk by Ethan Feezle, a single by Jesse McKee, and an error by the Lions shortstop. However, that is when Kling would bear down and strike out the next three Rebel batters with just one run scoring on a wild pitch. That made it the final 4-2 score.
“That was huge,” Kling exclaimed. “That was a big confidence boost. I felt like I was more in control of the game.”
“That was it. That was a testament to Jake for being in that situation for the first time. And against a team that is a good team. I can’t say enough about what Jake did,” Franken said.
“We try to focus on putting the ball in play. Make the other team at least make the outs, but hats off to the pitcher. He was the reason why we didn’t score. He was good and on his game,” Rebels coach Corey Hill remarked.
But the Rebels would threaten once more in the bottom of the seventh when Kling issued two consecutive one-out walks. Once coach Mark Franken made a mound visit, Kling responded with a line-out and a bouncer back to the mound to clinch the victory.
“He said to just keep throwing strikes and believe in yourself,” Kling said. “I wanted to finish it. It was my game.”
The Lions got on the scoreboard first when Will Morgan led off the third inning with a single to left and he would score on a dropped throw to home on a grounder by Jake Walker to first base. A double to left field by Drew Gault drove Walker home to stake the Lions to an early 2-0 lead.
The Rebels finally pushed a run home in the fifth inning when Sam Campbell reached base on a one-out single to right-center. Following a sacrifice bunt by Anthony Cusick, Campbell would score on an infield single by Carter Blakeman.
“We will come back tomorrow and see what we are made of. We will see what our attitude is like. If we rebound from this. One nice thing about baseball is that you get to play again the next day,” Hill said.
The Rebels will be right back in action Saturday afternoon when they travel to Marlington in non-conference action. The Lions will also return to the diamond Saturday afternoon when they host the Newton Falls Tigers in a double-header.
HEARTLAND 4, CRESTVIEW 2
HEARTLAND (6-4,) 002 002 0 - 4 7 1
CRESTVIEW (9-2) 000 011 0 - 2 6 2
WIN: Jake Kling (8 strikeouts and 4 walks). LOSS: Ethan Feezle (5 strikeouts and 0 walks)