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East Butler wins opener in last at-bat

Dramatic Start

EAST BUTLER — The East Butler Bulldogs wasted no time providing high drama.

In the first Summer Collegiate League baseball game of the season, the team overcame a 6-2 deficit and walked off the Meadville Mustangs at Speed-O Field Friday night.

With none out and the score tied in the bottom of the ninth inning, Marco Vesce drilled a Tai Hopkins pitch off the green wall in center field, scoring Evan Kircher with the winning run in a 10-9 victory.

The Bulldogs managed just two hits over the first four innings, but tallied eight runs on 10 hits over the final five frames. Vesce had three of the hits, including a double.

“We just had to remain confident at the plate and keep swinging,” said Vesce. “I’m playing for a very successful college team (at Marietta College) and to start the season like this, it’s awesome.”

Prior to Vesce’s winning hit, AJ Kuzior singled to lead off the frame and Kircher doubled. Sean Dewey’s base hit tied the game and Tristan Kenzevich was intentionally walked to load the bases.

Hopkins was the third pitcher for Meadville, following starter Zach Wilson (four innings) and Garrett Knapp (two). The trio combined to strike out six and walk 13.

“A lot of pitchers in this league didn’t get as many innings during the college season as they hoped for,” said Meadville manager Ben Kosbie. “I liked the fact that we fought until the very end.”

East Butler actually rallied twice late in the game. Trailing 7-6 in the bottom of the eighth, the Bulldogs scored twice to take their first lead of the game. Against Hopkins, they loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly from Chris Mullins plated Tristan Kenzevich. With two outs Vesce stole home for an 8-7 edge.

“I noticed their catcher was lobbing the ball back to the pitcher, taking a long time to get it back,” said East Butler manager Greg Folk, who was in the third-base coaching box. “Marco was on third base and I let him know and he took off after the next pitch, just as the catcher let the ball go.”

The celebration did not last long for the Bulldogs. In the top of the ninth, Shane Thompson, who went on to earn the win after pitching three innings, allowed a solo home run to Mason Bevan and an RBI-double to Zack Streightif. It was the only hit in the game for both players.

East Butler plated four runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game at six. Included was a two-run double off the bat of Nico Melograne.

“I kept telling our guys in the dugout, ‘Don’t go down without a fight,’” said Folk.

Cameron Haynes started on the mound for the Bulldogs and allowed four runs in four innings. Andrew Tkatch relieved him and surrendered three runs in two innings. In five combined innings of relief, Tkatch and Thompson struck out 10.

East Butler will face the Butler BlueSox at Pullman Park at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Meadville 101 221 002 — 9 14 2

East Butler 100 140 022 — 10 12 2

W: Shane Thompson 3 IP (5K, 2BB). L: Tai Hopkins 1+ IP (2K, 3BB).

Meadville: Kenny Lavrich 1B 2B 2R, Mason Bevan HR, Brian Feldman 3-1B R RBI, Josh Siegal 1B R RBI, Cole Grable 2-1B R RBI, Zack Streightif 2B RBI, Jon Sharp 1B 2B R RBI

East Butler: Marco Vesce 2-1B 2B 2R RBI, Tommaso Floro 2B R, Nico Melograne 2B 2R 2RBI, AJ Kuzior 2-1B R, Sean Dewey 1B RBI, Evan Kircher 2-1B 2B 2R

Butler graduate and Meadville Mustang’s third baseman Braden Marcellus gets set as his pitcher throws to the plate against the East Butler Bulldogs at East Butler's Speed-O Field Friday night, June 2, 2023. East Butler won 10-9. Brendan Howe/Butler Eagle
East Butler's Evan Kircher swipes third base before Butler grad and Meadville Mustangs third baseman Braden Marcellus puts the tag on at East Butler's Speed-O Field Friday night. Brendan Howe/Butler Eagle 06/02/2023
East Butler Bulldogs utility player Marco Vesce, right, rounds second base before returning to safety as the ball squirts away from Meadville shortstop Kenny Lavrich, left, Friday night at East Butler's Speed-O Field. Brendan Howe/Butler Eagle 06/02/2023
East Butler Bulldogs starting pitcher Cameron Haynes throws an offering to a Meadville Mustangs batter in the teams' season-opener Friday night at East Butler's Speed-O Field. Brendan Howe/Butler Eagle 06/02/2023

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