Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Independence holds off Fairport

Junior Jakob Wells struck out two and allowed just one run in five innings of work to lead Independence to a 7-5 win at Fairport Harding on Wednesday.

Wells gave up just four hits, walked two and hit a batter in collecting his first varsity victory.

“He did well,” said Independence coach Mike Gruber. “He kept the ball low and even when he missed it was always low. He kept the timing of their hitters off and he kept composed when things weren’t going well in the first inning and he got stronger after that.”

Fairport loaded the bases in the first inning on the two walks and hit batsman. A pop-out to catcher Jack Giganti got Wells and the Blue Devils out of the jam.

“Hats off to Jack Giganti,” Gruber said. “He played his butt off. He had four pop flies behind home plate he caught and he blocked balls throughout the game.”

Independence took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third when Nick Mroczynski drew a leadoff walk and scored on Kyle Stefanski’s single. Fairport strung a couple of hits together in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game.

The Blue Devils scored three runs in both the fifth and sixth innings to take a 7-1 lead into the final frame.

Stefanski reached on an error in the fifth and Ricky Dolejs doubled. Owen Ramm then singled to make it 3-1. Ramm stole second and third and scored on Ryan Wancata’s single to push Independence’s lead to 4-1.

Mroczynski singled with one out in the sixth and Dolejs hit a two-run blast to make it 6-1. Ramm walked and moved to third on Wells’ single. Wancata then doubled to score Ramm.

Those were important runs.

Dakota Billings struck out all three Fairport batters he faced in the sixth but got into some trouble in the seventh.

Eight straight Fairport hitters reached base safely in the bottom of the seventh but Tyler Wilson recorded the final two outs of the game to earn the save.

“We needed our senior to step up,” Gruber said. “He hadn’t thrown for about a week because he’s been battling arm issues. “We made a good play on a bunt, they tried a suicide and our catcher jumped on it and tagged the guy out trying to steal home. Tyler struck out the last guy to end the game.”

Dolejs finished 3-for-5 with a double, a home run, two runs scored and two RBI.

“He’s just in the zone right now,” Gruber said. “He’s seeing the pitches well. Anywhere that’s a strike he’s hitting the ball hard and getting on base.”

Mroczynski finished 2-for-3 with two runs scored, Wancata was 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI and two doubles, Giganti was 2-for-3 and Stefanski, Wells and Nick Loparo all had hits for the Blue Devils.

Independence hosts Gilmour on Thursday.

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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