Lakewood, OH – The 2022 16u Mickey Mantle Diamond League (DL) season came to an end on Tuesday evening at Lakewood High School with a matchup between Premier Ohio PC and Rubber City Renegades in the championship. The Renegades went 4-2 in (DL) play and defeated Ohio Longhorns JA in the semifinals 5-2. Premier Ohio finished the season 3-3 but had to play in the play-in game to advance to the semifinals. They took care of Impact Baseball 12-5 where Premier Ohio had a date with Release, which they won 7-0. The third-best record took on the fifth-best, and boy the game was a dandy from start to finish.
Premier opened the scoring with the help of a Connor Christie throwing error as he attempted to pick off Adam Flachbart at third, who jogged home to score. Christie remained in trouble with runners on the corners but struck out Nolan Kelley to end the threat. Mike Steingass sent down the Renegades despite allowing a one-out single to Devon Lehman.
Christie allowed another unearned run when he attempted to pick off Caden Papson at first, however, the throw was way offline as Papson moved to second, and Eric Carbone scored. Once Papson saw the throw from Alex Wines skip into center field, he scampered to third. Papson would later be picked off on a 1-3-6-1-5 put-out, and Christie ended the frame by getting Steingass to fly out to Aidan Zwisler in right.
The Renegades got a run closer by scoring on a Flachbart error at second base, making it a 2-1 game. They had the chance to tie or take the lead with Justin Fuller at the plate, however, he lined to Ethan Ragazzo, sending the contest to the fourth. Christie hit Carbone to start the frame, and Joshua Shafer entered the game and immediately plunked Cirino. Then, two batters later, Ragazzo singled, loading the bases, and Flachbart launched one way over the left field fence for a grand slam that gave Premier Ohio a four-run cushion.
Rubber City responded with a tally by collecting an Andrew Lewis double, and Shafer advanced him to third on a 4-3 ground out. Steingass threw a wild pitch when Wines was hitting, allowing Lewis to score, making it a 6-2 game.
Shafer worked a scoreless frame in the fifth, which was the turning point of the game since the Renegades platted four runs to tie in their half. Keagan Gilbride led off with a two-bagger, and Brennen Watson doubled him home. Then, Fuller and Lewis got aboard to load the bases to set up Shafer’s RBI knock, making it the end of the line for Steingass. Kelley came in and walked in two runs and struck out a pair to stop the scoring, but the damage had been done.
Premier Ohio took the lead right back on a two-out RBI single by Steingass, who got tagged out trying to extend it into a double to finish the inning. Down 7-6 and to their last 6 outs, the Renegades scored three times with a pair on Fuller’s double and one on a Lewis single. Rubber City led 9-7 entering the seventh, where they handed the ball to Michael Knox to finish the game. Knox struggled as Premier Ohio collected three hits, including a one-out two-run double by Kelley to tie the game at 9. Kelley shut down the Renegade's offense as the game headed to the eighth
Lewis took over on the mound for the Renegades in extras to keep the game tied. He worked around a two-out two-bagger with help from a nice sliding grab by Zwisler. Kelley returned for his third inning of work that began on a Watson double, and Lehman walked it off on a base knock to right center to give the Renegades the championship. Rubber City began mobbing Lehman at first, who went 4-5 with 1 run scored and part of the top four hitters that hit .647 (11/17) along with 6 runs.
Lewis picked up the win in relief for the Renegades as he pitched 1 scoreless inning while the loss went to Kelley whose line was 2.2 innings, 6 hits, 3 runs, 0 earned runs, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts.