GRANVILLE — Tied at 5 heading into the top of the seventh inning Tuesday, the Licking Heights baseball team was right where it wanted to be.
The Hornets’ top of the order delivered. Senior Tyler VonBargen’s two-run single to center was the big blow, and he later scored what turned into the difference-making run during Heights’ 8-7 victory at Granville in Licking County League-Buckeye Division play.
“In this type of situation, I like the pressure. It kind of gets me going,” said VonBargen, whose hit followed a single from senior Jonah Hane and a double from sophomore Jake Lopinto. VonBargen went to third on a fielding error and eventually dove in safely at the plate on sophomore Brady Pennington’s slow roller to second.
“I was ready,” VonBargen added. “I was waiting for that fastball.”
The game began April 5, and Heights led 4-1 in the fourth inning when thunderstorms postponed it. Granville (4-3, 1-2) answered Tuesday, scoring once in the fourth and three times in the fifth to take a 5-4 lead before the Hornets (5-3, 3-1) responded.
Pennington walked, stole second and raced all the way home on senior Eli Hickman’s grounder to the right side to tie the game in the top of the sixth. Pennington, who had two hits and three RBIs before the postponement, also threw the final 2 1/3 innings in relief of Hickman.
“Brady is a sophomore; he’s young. It’s important he stays even-keel,” said Heights coach Cody Paterniti, of his standout left-hander. “He had just given up a home run (in the seventh inning), and the game was getting close. Just keep throwing and keep trusting your defense.”
That home run came off the bat of Granville sophomore Ezra Kurek and cut the Heights lead to 8-7. Kurek previously had a two-run double to tie the game in the fifth and scored on a throwing error.
After the home run, Granville used a single and walk to put runners on first and second with one out. Heights, however, escaped when an infield fly dropped, and the Blue Aces ran into the third out.
“The more we get experience from playing, the kids are going to perform and jell. We are going to work through this little hiccup we are in right now,” said Granville coach Justin Richards, whose team, which often starts four sophomores and a freshman, fell 7-4 at Licking Valley on Monday.
“We battled back from down 4-1 and 8-5,” he added. “We had the tying run at second, and we just made a mental error. We will learn from that.”
Kurek had three of Granville’s eight hits, and junior shortstop Nolan Tracy reached three times and scored two runs. Senior first baseman Drew Cottrell added a double and a run scored as eight of the nine Blue Aces reached base at least once.
“I’m confident one through nine we can produce runs,” Richards said. “The kids just have to have the approach we had at the plate tonight, and we will be fine. The season’s long. We have a lot of games this week, and we will work through it.”
Granville senior Alex Gregory struck out four in four innings before the postponement. Hickman allowed five hits in 4 2/3 innings for Heights.
Hane, a sparkplug at the top of the order, had two hits and two runs scored for the Hornets. Senior third baseman Joel Busker also had two hits, and junior catcher Kaleb Ribbing scored twice.
“We were just trying to stay on the gas pedal and not let up no matter how many runs we put on them,” VonBargen said. “The energy has to stay high.”
Heights, which visits Heath on Wednesday, dropped its LCL opener at Licking Valley. The Hornets rebounded with a 6-5 victory against Utica, and they again showed resilience Tuesday.
Heights will be tested next week when rival Watkins Memorial visits on Monday, and Newark Catholic on April 19 and Valley on April 20 follow.
“I really try to instill that brotherhood that they are playing for each other,” Paterniti said. “When we get down, we are still in the game. We are not giving up. They want to come out and make a statement to the LCL this year, and they are doing that so far.”