Monday, January 30, 2023

Niro leads Independence to CVC win over Wickliffe

Nick Niro threw his second straight complete game to lead Independence to a 3-1 win at Wickliffe in a Chagrin Valley Conference Metro Division showdown on Monday.

Niro allowed just two hits and struck out eight to improve to 4-2 on the year.

“He was a bulldog today,” said Independence coach Mike Gruber. “He went in and pounded the zone. They couldn’t catch up to his fastball. He has a really nice, low strike zone he was working and the defense backed him up and he went the distance. He was untouchable.”

Wickliffe’s only run came in the bottom of the first when Niro hit a batter and allowed back-to-back singles. He shut Wickliffe down in order in four of the next six innings.

Independence took a 2-1 lead in the second when Niro and Daniel Mathews both singled and Steven Schmetzer reached on a fielder’s choice. Mathews scored on a single by Devyn Skoczen and Schmetzer came home on Jake Watroba’s base hit.

“Skoczen had a nice line drive single to score a run,” Gruber said. “He saw the ball well and put it in play. I’ve been saying it all year; if you put the ball good things will happen for you. Watroba did the same thing. He had two strikes and he battled in there and just kind of flipped the bat on an outside pitch and put it down the right field line.”

The Blue Devils added an insurance run in the sixth when Schmetzer drew a two-out walk, stole second and scored on Danny Pumper’s clutch single.

“We kind of manufactured a run that inning,” Gruber said. “Schmetzer got on base and stole. He was stealing third when Pumper did a h it and run and sent a dribbler down the line.”

Independence, which improved to 9-7 overall and 2-3 in league play, hosts Wickliffe on Tuesday. A win keeps the Blue Devils in position to earn another conference title.

“We talked right before the game about giving us all you’ve got for one more month here,” Gruber said. “Let’s finish up strong and try to make a little run.”

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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