But Marietta managed to get through unscathed, and it has starting pitcher Evan Steele to thank for that.
Steele kept Woodstock off the board until the sixth inning, and Marcus Mitchell provided the game-winning hit with the bases loaded in the same inning to lead the Blue Devils to a 3-2 non-region victory.
Steele pitched into the sixth inning, giving up two runs — both in the sixth — on four hits and had eight strikeouts. Mitchell was the clutch hitter, going 2-for-3 with two RBIs.
In the second inning, Marietta (5-2) flirted with disaster.
Its first two errors came on the first-at-bat, when Woodstock’s Chase Williams hit a grounder, and third baseman Zach Marletta missed his throw to first. While Williams was rounding second, Mitchell overthrew Marletta, but left fielder Trent Wildermuth scooped up the ball in time to throw Williams out trying to come home.
The next set of errors came with two outs, when back-to-back errors by Eric Henderson at shortstop put runners on first and second, but Steele bailed his team out by striking out Will Long.
“You know, there’s bad and then there’s real bad,” Marietta coach Chris Stafford said. “When it gets that bad, you just say, ‘Hey, we’re better than this,’ take a deep breath and relax.”
Marietta bounced back quickly with two runs in the bottom half of the inning.
Henderson redeemed himself for those errors with a leadoff double to deep center field. He later scored on an RBI double by Mitchell, and Mitchell came home on an RBI groundout by Steele.
Then, it was all Steele for the next three innings. Six of his eight strikeouts came in the third, fourth and fifth innings, when he retired nine straight Woodstock batters.
“Pitching has been the keys to our wins all season,” Stafford said. “We have three quality starters and they give us a chance to win every time they go out there.”
In the sixth inning, Steele gave up a triple to Brandon Byrd, but caught a break when Byrd tried coming home on Tanner Thomson’s grounder to the mound.
Steele couldn’t escape trouble, however. With two outs, he lost Williams on a full count and was taken out of the game. Jack Brennan then brought both runners home with a game-tying double off reliever Brooks Declaria.
After getting out of the top half of the sixth with no further damage, Marietta loaded the bases with one out on a single and two walks before Mitchell came through with a bloop single over Dalton Decay at shortstop.
“I just wanted to get a base-knock somewhere,” Mitchell said. “It happened that I got the end of the bat and it went over (Delay’s) head. I was going down the first-base line jumping, hoping it would go over his head, and it did.”
Declaria retired the side in the seventh, inducing three fly outs to center field.