Thursday, September 16, 2021

Blue Devils upset state-ranked Chagrin Falls

Independence’s baseball team started the season with a 1-6 record but the Blue Devils are now just one game under .500 at 10-11 following Monday’s stunning 4-2 upset that spoiled Senior Night at Chagrin Falls.

The Blue Devils took a 2-0 lead in the second inning and never trailed in topping the Tigers, who dropped to 19-6 overall and are ranked eighth in the latest Division II state coaches poll.

“It was a great win,” said Independence coach Mark Echstenkamper. “We played really well. Our defense was the best we played all year. We just played really good baseball. I was really happy for the guys.”

Jordan Mallernee’s leadoff single in the top of the second set the stage for Tim Marcinko’s first home run of the season.

“I got a fastball down and in a little and normally I wouldn’t swing at that, especially on a 2-1 count, but I picked up the pitch pretty early and just went for it,” Marcinko said. “I knew I made decent contact but it just felt like a fly out. Next thing I know, the left fielder is staring over the fence. I just have to thank the guys in front of me for putting pressure on the pitcher and getting into scoring position well before I was up to bat.”

Owen Ramm reached on an error in the fourth and scored on Marcinko’s sacrifice fly.

Marcinko added an RBI double in the sixth to finish the game 2-for-2 with three runs batted in.

“It was a great game for sure,” Marcinko said. “The quality of baseball on display tonight was great and that was arguably one of our best wins on the year, if not the best. It’s a great feeling when, as a team, we piece together every part of our game on the same night and the outcome is definitely exciting.”

Chagrin Falls scored runs in the fourth and the fifth innings but Independence’s pitcher-by-committee approach tamed the Tigers.

Jamie McMahon struck out two in the first inning, Zak Billings struck out two in two innings of work to pick up the win and Mallernee whiffed two Tigers in his inning on the hill. Sam Spacagna struck out one in the fifth and Kyle Stefanski pitched the final two innings to pick up the save.

Independence’s defense also contributed by playing errorless baseball.

“Kyle made a few great plays and Andrew Teribery made a bunch of great plays. Owen Ramm caught a two-out line drive diving play in right field that saved two runs,” Echstenkamper said. “We had some big hits. One big hit for us was Marcinko’s two-run homer and Connor Blum, the freshman, had another RBI base hit. He’s been hitting really well.”

Stefanski, Teribery, Mallernee, Blum and Kevin Mooney each had a hit for the Blue Devils, who host Central Christian in a Division IV sectional semifinal on Wednesday.

“After the game, I told the guys this was a great way to lead into our tournament game on Wednesday,” Echstenkamper said. “You beat the eighth-ranked Division II team in Ohio and they’re 14-0 in the CVC and 19-5 going into today. It was a total team effort. Everybody contributed in different ways.”

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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