One inning into Tuesday’s season opener, the Columbus East baseball team resembled a well-oiled machine.
East starter Brian Wichman mowed down the first three batters he faced, and East’s electric offense seized a four-run lead.
But it was the Falcons who were sizzling late.
Senior Cody Taylor’s RBI-single off East’s Yates Burkhart gave Perry Meridian its first lead in the top of the seventh, and the Falcons held on to spoil the hosts’ season debut with a 6-5 victory.
“They were tenacious,” first-year Falcons coach Jacob Allstott said. “These guys are fighters. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they stayed with it and fought back.”
Though the loss stung, East coach Jonathan Gratz had an important message for his players — it’s only one game.
“It’s the first game of the season,” Gratz said. “You don’t want to let them get down about it. We just need to maintain the same attitude at the plate that we started with.”
East’s pitching trio of Wichman, Peyton Gray and Burkhart allowed 10 hits. Wichman threw a team-high five strikeouts and Burkhart took the loss.
Senior pitcher John Hardwick fanned five batters and notched the win for the Falcons.
Hardwick helped slam the door on East.
With Perry Meridian clinging to a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Wichman put the tying run aboard with a leadoff double made possible by an outfield error.
Hardwick responded by striking out Christian Wichman.
The pitcher pumped his fist.
After the next batter, Gray, went down on strikes, Hardwick let out a yell.
East’s Cody Edwards grounded out to short to notch the final out, and Hardwick raised his arms in victory.
“We’ve got that refuse to lose mentality,” Hardwick said. “That’s what we did.”
East’s night was not without its highlights, especially in the field.
East left Perry Meridian stranded with the bases loaded in the top of the third. In the top of the fifth, the O’s robbed Falcon Bredan Dudas of a triple when Brian Wichman fired the ball from deep right field to second baseman Ben Harpring, who tossed to Edwards for the out.
“We did a good job on our double cut out there,” Gratz said. “We work on that in practice, so it’s nice to it pay off.”