Baseball: Russia beats Fort Loramie 5-3 for big early-season win


RUSSIA — Russia took the field for its first game less than two weeks ago and is still far from perfect. But the Raiders earned a big win in a Shelby County Athletic League game on Monday to take an early lead in the conference race.

Russia, which advanced to Division IV state finals the last two years, held on late to beat previously undefeated Fort Loramie 5-3 at Russia Community Park.

Russia’s two losses have both been close. The squad lost 2-0 to Marion Local in the St. Henry Invitational on April 6 and 7-6 to Arcanum on Friday.

Monday’s win was the third in a row for the Raiders, which beat Fairlawn 16-0 on the road on Saturday morning, then returned home and beat Lima Perry 5-2 later in the day.

“We’re still trying to find consistency, with only having one week of practice for the majority of these guys,” Russia ninth-year coach Kevin Phlipot said. “With the weather being like it always is, we haven’t gotten any routine. Everything has been scattered. Every time we’ve had a practice, it’s been inside.

“A couple of the little bunt, slow roller plays, we didn’t make smoothly enough, which comes from the lack of reps. I’m not expecting us to be flawless there. Hopefully this week we can get five, six games in, and that will help out.”

Russia returned five pitchers from last year’s state runner-up squad, but the team’s staff is relatively inexperienced. The Raiders have an experienced ace in junior Braylon Cordonnier, who committed to Marshall last fall.

Cordonnier picked up the win on Monday after pitching 6 2/3 innings. He didn’t give up an earned run and struck out 14 batters while walking two and giving up seven hits.

“Braylon was outstanding,” Phlipot said. “He was the bulldog we thought he’d be. He shut them out early. They gave us one little hiccup, a few defensive plays behind him, and they hit a few balls. It was a great ball game, to be tested this early like that.”

Felix Francis, a senior center fielder and the team’s leadoff hitter, was 3 for 4 and scored two runs. Jude Counts, a senior first baseman, was 1 for 3 with 2 RBIs and one triple, which helped the squad take the lead in the bottom of the fifth.

While the squad is somewhat inexperienced on the mound, it’s extremely experienced everywhere else.

Cordonnier and Counts are three-year starters while Franics is a two-year starter. Senior infielders Brayden Monnin and Hayden Quinter are four-year starters, and sophomore catcher Cooper Unverferth is a two-year starter.

It was the first loss of the season for Fort Loramie, which won its first eight games.

Maverick Grudich pitched a complete game for the Redskins. He gave up one earned run on seven hits and one walk while striking out seven batters.

“Mav threw a great game,” Phlipot said. “He had a couple innings where he dominated us.”

Russia took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Francis and Cordonnier each hit singles on line drives to the outfield, then Grudich hit Monnin and Quinter with pitches to force across one run. He struck out the next two batters and forced a ground out to get out of the inning.

Fort Loramie struggled against Cordonnier in early innings but scored three runs on three hits in the fifth. Will Hoying hit a single on a ground ball to third and Grudich reached on an error after a bunt to third. Landon Barhorst hit a single on a hard ground ball to right field, which drove in one run. Grudich scored on an error on a throw to second by Unverferth, and Dylan Meyer drove in a run with two outs on a line drive to left.

But Russia responded immediately in the bottom half.

Micah Grieshop hit a single on a ground ball to short stop, then with one out, Franics hit a single on a grounder to short. Cordonnier drove in two runs on a sacrifice fly to deep center, then Grudich hit Monnin with a pitch.

Quinter hit a single on a line drive to center, then Counts hit a 2-RBI triple to center to give Russia a 5-3 lead.

“After they scored those three runs, I didn’t know if we had it in us,” Phlipot said. “That’s when a good, experienced team comes back. They had a big inning, and we followed that right up and got the momentum back.”

Russia left the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, and Fort Loramie loaded the bases in the top of the seventh.

Barhorst hit a single on a fly to left field, then with two outs, Thomas Hoying hit a ground ball single to second.

Phlipot brought in Maddox Goubeaux in relief of Cordonnier. Goubeaux hit Meyer with a pitch to load the bases, but Alex Boeke hit a grounder to second, and Zeb Schulze threw out Meyer at second to end it.

Roger Hoying and Meyer were each 2 for 3 for the Redskins, which are scheduled to host Jackson Center on Tuesday. The Redskins are scheduled to travel to Anna on Thursday and to host the Fort Loramie Invitational on Saturday.

Russia is scheduled to travel to Houston on Tuesday. The Raiders are scheduled to host Jackson Center on Thursday and travel to Celina on Saturday.

Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.

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