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RAVENNA -- Ryan Stelzer got a special treat.
The Ravenna Mustangs coach watched his son pitch a 1-2-3 inning Saturday, then deliver a walk-off homer to earn a berth in the Hot Stove Class I Ravenna Regional quarterfinals.
The Mustangs proceeded to take advantage of that opportunity, beating the Knox Ruritans Sunday, 23-20. As a result, they'll play in a Saturday morning regional semifinal against Mac Services.
But just making it to Sunday was no breeze.
Prior to Tyler Stelzer's Saturday heroics, it was a back-and-forth game.
The visiting Ravenna Thunder took a 7-1 lead in the top of the second, with the Mustangs scoring five of their own in the bottom half of the frame. The Mustangs drew eight walks in their five-run fourth to take a 12-9 lead, but the Thunder tied the score on Jack Rainone's 3-RBI double just past shortstop and into the left-center gap.
Following all the drama, Stelzer fell behind the first hitter he faced 2-0, but rallied back with a 2-1 pitch that caught the lower outside corner. He followed with a 2-2 pitch down the middle for a strikeout. He got help from Ryan Kelly for the second out of the sixth, as the second baseman deftly fielded a soft roller and tossed it to first.
Ryan Stelzer said, "I try to tell the kids, 'Even in those situations, you got to do the basics. Think about the ball first, and then make your play next.' Hopefully, that's what he was thinking, and I'll attribute it to that."
Stelzer finished his perfect inning with a 3-2 pitch that caught outer black.
Having earned the chance to walk-off Saturday, Stelzer seized the opportunity, ripping a 3-1 pitch the opposite way. As the ball touched down a couple of feet inside the right-field line, Stelzer tore around the basepaths, scoring right as the ball got to the pitcher for the 13-12 victory.
Rainone had a fine day for the Thunder, knocking a pair of singles along with his 3-RBI double to finish with five RBI. In the first, he golfed a low pitch into the outfield for a 1-0 lead. In the second, he pinged a line drive off the first baseman for a 6-1 edge. PJ Marsh, who also had an RBI knock in the first, followed with a fly over short to give the Thunder their biggest lead of the afternoon at 7-1.
But with two outs and the Mustangs still trailing 7-2, Dom Dozanti ripped an RBI single up the middle. Henry Shelton followed with a pop that had plenty of English, landing in front of the third baseman for a single. Stelzer drove Dozanti home with a rip past the first baseman, then came around to score, along with Shelton, on a Brayden Brooks triple to draw within one. Brooks would have had an inside-the-park homer, except that his run didn't count due to Hot Stove's five-run rule. Brooks also notched five strikeouts over two innings on the mound.
"Brayden has led us through this whole year as our start-it-off pitcher," Ryan Stelzer said. "He's done what he's done for us all year long."
Meanwhile, for the Thunder, Bradan Geib pitched a scoreless fifth, striking out three, while picking up a pair of singles at the dish. Carter Mitchell (three singles) and Xavier Robinson (a single and a double) also had multiple knocks for the Thunder. Kooper Russell had multiple singles for the Mustangs, while Kelly reached base in all three of his Saturday plate appearances with a walk, single and a triple.
With their pair of weekend wins, the Mustangs will now play at least one more weekend.