Give the Westhill baseball team any kind of opening, no matter how small it may be, and an opponent will pay a severe price.
Bishop Ludden found this out in vivid detail during last Tuesday's first-place OHSL Liberty division showdown, as a modest lead turned into a 6-1 defeat to the Warriors before the Gaelic Knights could even process it.
They were supposed to meet April 25 at Alliance Bank Stadium, but rain pushed the game back six days, and returned it to the Westhill campus.
It rained on this day, too, but not enough to halt proceedings. And for much of the game, the opposing pitchers -- Ludden's Ryan Poplawski and Westhill's Mike DeCarr -- flourished in this gray setting.
To start with, Poplawski did some plate damage. He led off the game with a walk, stole second, and came around to score when, with two outs, Terry McFadden dumped a single down the left-field line.
That would be the only hit DeCarr would allow all afternoon. He worked quickly and toyed with the Gaelic Knights batters, recording 10 strikeouts and getting terrific defense in the form of two diving catches, plus a fourth-inning double play after a walk to Michael Kogut.
For a while, though, DeCarr's mastery didn't matter, for Poplawski was just as good. The left-hander baffled Westhill's potent lineup with a variety of pitches and drawing a lot of called third strikes.
By the bottom of the fifth, that had translated to 10 strikeouts and a 1-0 lead. With two outs in that frame and no one on base, Poplawski appeared to be in total command.
Then Rich Hevier stepped up. Having already struck out twice, Hevier stayed more patient at the plate and, on four pitches, drew a walk.
Instantly, that walk turned into a Ludden disaster, as Mike Mascari crushed a double to the base of the wall to score Hevier, and DeCarr followed with his own blast, a long double to center field that brought home Mascari with the go-ahead run.
Tom Piscitell continued the uprising, singling home DeCarr. Ludden added to its own troubles with a throwing error that produced another run, then a deep fly by Ryan Malley that got misread, leading to two more runs.
From having no one on base with two outs, Westhill had turned a walk into a six-run rally, and DeCarr retired the last six batters he faced to close out the win. The Warriors (12-1, 6-0 league) and Gaelic Knights (7-4, 6-1 league) are set to meet again May 16.