Zuppe’s Extra Inning Walk-Off Sends Leopards to 1st District Championship Since 2009 – Baseball
#2 Louisville 4, #6 Norton 3, 9 Innings
The #2 Seed Louisville Leopards Baseball Team rallied for a 4-3 extra inning win over the #6 Seed Norton Panthers in the DII Akron District Semifinals Tuesday Night at Canal Park. With the victory, Louisville improves to 22-7 overall and advances to play the top seeded, defending state champion Tallmadge Blue Devils in the District Championship on Wednesday, May 16 at 5:00 PM.
Bryce Zuppe hit a 2-out, walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to send the Leopards to their first District Title game since 2009. Earlier in the inning Dillon English hit a 1-out single to left. Then, with the hit and run on, Max Hartline singled on a line drive to right field, but English was thrown out at third by a great throw from Panthers Right Fielder Andrew Kozak for the second out. Zuppe stepped into the box and swung and missed the first pitch. However, Hartline swiped second and then advanced to third on an overthrow.
Zuppe would foul off an 0-2 pitch to stay alive before blasting a deep fly ball to center field scoring Hartline from third. Hartline flipped his helmet into the air, Zuppe did the same, and then the entire bench mobbed Mr. Clutch in joyous pandemonium.
The game did not generate such happiness early on. The Leopards failed to record a hit until the fifth inning as they fell behind 3-0 when Norton put together a 3-run third inning. Parker Hray singled home Kozak to break the deadlock. Then Hray came home on a sacrifice fly by Ben Hornacek. A few pitches later, Ben Aiken tripled to right field scoring Clayton Borrelli from second.
Following that triple, both teams struggled to get runners aboard. The next 12 hitters, counting both squads together, were all retired in order. Cam Lingle broke the spell with a double on a line drive to right field, which was also the first Louisville hit of the contest. Two batters later, English lined a single to left field knocking in Lingle to get the Leopards on the board.
Louisville would tack on another run in the sixth inning that started with Zuppe out-hustling the throw on a ground ball to second for an infield hit. Zuppe reached second on Cam King’s groundout and then advanced to third when Davis Burick reached base on an error. Zuppe then came home on Caleb Prasco’s sacrifice fly to right field cutting the deficit to 3-2.
Facing elimination, the Leopards put two on with no outs in the bottom of the seventh. Lingle walked and pinch-hitter Justin Blyer poked a perfectly placed infield single into no man’s land on the right side of the infield. English then bunted to sacrifice the runners over into scoring position. Next, the Panthers intentionally walked Hartline to load the bases and create a force out at home.
After a strikeout, King stepped in and hit an 0-2 pitch to the third baseman. The throw to first would have been close and the fielder elected to swipe a tag at Blyer advancing from second to third. The swipe missed its mark, everyone was safe, and Lingle scored to tie the game at 3-3 to keep the Leopards alive. Norton got out of the jam without any further damager, but Louisville’s relief pitching refused to let the Panthers score again.
Jordan Shearer worked on 1-2-3 seventh inning and then struck out the side in the eight inning. Lingle came on to pitch the ninth inning and retired the first two Norton batters. He surrendered a single to Kozak on the next pitch but looked to get out of the inning getting the next batter to ground out. Only the ensuing throw the first went awry. Kozak wound up on third and the batter John Cline advanced to second. After working a 3-1 count, the Leopards intentionally walked Hray to load the bases. The next batter hit a promising line drive to shallow left field, but King dived forward to make a leaping stab to get Louisville out of the jam. The Leopards offense would do the rest in the bottom of the frame.
Starter Andrew Gray pitched 6 innings, gave up 3 runs on 8 hits, and struck out 8. Shearer struck out 4 in two innings of work and Cam Lingle earned the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.
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UP NEXT: The Louisville Leopards Baseball Team will next challenge the #1 Seed Tallmadge Blue Devils in the DII Akron District Championship on Wednesday, May 15 at 5:00 PM from Akron’s Canal Park.
Cover Photo By Jim & Laura Photography Website
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DISTRICT SEMIFINAL BOX SCORE
LEOPARDS 4, PANTHERS 3, 9 INNINGS
NORTON PANTHERS BASEBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
NORTON PANTHERS BASEBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS BASEBALL VARSITY BATTING STATS
LOUISVILLE LEOPARDS BASEBALL VARSITY PITCHING STATS
Records: Louisville 22-7