Buckeye fights off EL in D-II

STEUBENVILLE – Tournament time has been described as survive and advance.

That’s exactly what Buckeye Local did here Saturday night in outslugging East Liverpool, 8-7, in Division II sectional baseball tournament action at cloud-covered Vaccaro Field.

The Panthers (12-13) needed Eric Williams’ single just inside the right field line with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh in eliminating the Potters (5-17).

Next up for Buckeye Local is a rubber-match with Harrison Central on Thursday at 5 p.m., also at Vaccaro Field.

Deadlocked at seven after blowing a 2-run lead in the top of the seventh, the Panthers’ Eric Banal lined a single to center with one out. He promptly swiped second and advanced to third when Brian Zeroski’s infield grounder was misplayed. A walk to Josh Figurski loaded the bases and Williams, who started the game on the mound but re-entered in the top of the seventh during another pitching change, lifted an 0-1 pitch high down the right field line.

However, the Potters had deployed a 5-player infield, leaving just a player in right-center and another in left-center. Despite the ball’s height, the rightfielder couldn’t get to it as the Panthers began celebrating when Banal touched the plate.

“These kids are excited because we usually lose the close games like this,” first-year Buckeye Local head coach Rick DeLuca said. “We’ve had a lot of games like this where we have just come up short. This one we won. That’s why they are so excited.”

When Figurski blasted a run-scoring double with one out in the sixth, and Josh Sokolowski followed with a single that plated another run, it appeared as though the Panthers were cruising.

It seemed even more like that when Lucas Ostijich retired the first two batters in the top of the seventh, but back-to-back walks and three stolen bases left the Potters with the tying run on second base.

DeLuca went to the mound and summoned in senior ace Austin Marshall, who has been playing second base with a sore arm. Marshall gave up a single to Parker Bowers that knotted the game, but Bowers, who went to second on the throw to the plate, was picked off second to end the threat.

Buckeye Local grabbed an early 3-0 lead when Banal doubled to left-center, scoring Marshall and Jonathan Borkoski. Zeroski’s single to left plated Banal.

After East Liverpool tallied a run in the top of the third, Borkoski drilled a double to right-center that chased home Shane Duncan to make it 4-1.

The Potters scored twice in the fourth and once in the fifth before the Panthers went back ahead in the bottom of the frame. Chase Hopkins drew a leadoff walk, stole second and went to third on a balk. He raced home when Duncan grounded out.

Borkoski and Banal each singled and doubled to lead Buckeye Local’s 11-hit attack. Banal also scored three times and made a diving catch in foul territory after running approximately 40 yards to end the East Liverpool fourth with a pair of runners in scoring position.

“That was an outstanding catch by Eric,” DeLuca noted. “We didn’t do (today) what we usually do the best, and that’s hit the ball. Our pitching wasn’t the greatest, either, but we played pretty good defense.”

Indeed they did. The Panthers turned a pair of East Liverpool hit-and-run’s into double plays to end the first and third innings. Duncan went deep into the hole to his right before lasering a strike to first for an out, and Marshall alertly tagged out the Potters’ Austin Dozier after he overslid second base in the sixth. Banal threw a runner out at the plate trying to score in the fourth.

Marshall, who only threw two pitches, picked up the win. Hunter Maze, who went the distance, took the loss.


East Liverpool 001 211 2 – 7 12 3

Buckeye Local 301 012 1 – 8 11 2

Batteries: Maze and Newlun. Williams, Ostijich (6), Marshall (7) and Sokolowski

North can be reached at