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It happened just the way Coach Mike Pogue said – Bronson boys racked up a lead over district visitor Mayo, hung on through the middle innings, and had surgical closer Kelby Barber to bring them home for a 4-3 win over the Hornets.
“Kelby was able to come in and stabilize the game for us,” said Pogue, the Eagles' head coach.
“He shut them down pretty much single-handed.”
Eagles' starter Luke Morrison kept the Mayo batters guessing into the fifth inning, allowing only three hits up to that time. Ethan Perry had singled on in the fourth for the Hornets and scored on errors, but Mayo didn't really crack the code until their next at bat, when, with one out, they loaded the bases and managed to bring home Austin Henderson and Brooks Laminack.
Too little, too late for Mayo. Bronson had already manufactured a huge inning in the third, starting with Seth Steinbacher's beating the throw to first to open up a two-out rally. Virgil Greenlee followed him on with a single to right and Tyler Martensen singled to left. Barber, batting in the three hole, drove in Steinbacher and Greenlee with a standup double and Jake Williams drove in Martensen and Barber with another of the same.
The four-run lead proved to be enough cushion to outlast Mayo.
Barber came to the mound in the top of the fifth with one out and the tying and winning runs on base. He fanned Ethan Perry and Chris Mercedes to end the inning. After the Eagles were unable to pad the lead any more in the bottom half, Barber mowed the batters down in order in the top of the sixth. In the seventh inning, he punched out two before giving Sergio Perez a free base on the hip. Perez was stranded when Barber whiffed Cody Singletary for the last out and the save.
Pogue was delighted with the win, “especially since Mayo was undefeated in the district.”
He noted that of six district losses (Bronson is 5-6 in the district), four were lost by one or two runs, and the Eagles had held a lead until the fifth inning.
“I wanted the team to understand that these were winnable games, but we just couldn't shut the door,” he said.
“Those losses came before we had Kelby available to close.”
Barber has been working on a sidewinder style this season, and Pogue says he throws it with great effectiveness and little loss of speed.
“Besides, when it comes at that angle, 85 miles per hour looks like 95,” he said.
“It's a hard ball to see and hit.”
Bronson hosts Branford at 7 p.m. Friday for their last district game.
“We'd like to get to .500 in the district, heading into the tournament,” said Pogue.