DEFIANCE — A fourth inning rally and some dominance out of the bullpen was all the Napoleon River Bandits needed to salvage a split in a four-game weekend series against Stevensville Sunday at Defiance High School, winning 10-5 after losing 3-2 in game one.
Dakota Benner (Montpelier) tossed six one-run innings in relief of starter Axel Shanks (Patrick Henry), holding serve on the mound as the River Bandits scored 10 of the final 11 runs in the game.
Benner struck out two and walked four, allowing one run on a fourth-inning triple, after Shanks struggled to find a groove to the tune of a four-run first.
“Dakota is just a strike-thrower,” River Bandits’ coach Chad Donsbach said. “He went out there and just started attacking hitters. I think he had an inning where he gave up two hits but only threw five pitches.”
Stevensville scored four in the top of the first, but Napoleon rallied with two in the first and three in the second to take a 5-4 lead.
With the game knotted at 5 in the bottom of the fourth, Nathan Vold (Defiance) singled and advanced to second on a walk to Landon Willeman (Napoleon).
Jeron Williams (Archbold) followed with a double to right center that scored Vold and Willeman. Williams advanced to third on an error by the Stevensville shortstop and scored one batter later on a sacrifice fly to center from Hunter Bostater (Fairview).
After Zac Brickel (Hicksville) walked, Brandon Shafer (Defiance) singled and Austin Bostater (Fairview) walked to lead the bases. Caleb Frank (Fairview) singled two batters later to drive in Brickel and Shafer and give Napoleon the decisive 10-5 lead.
“I wish I could bottle their mindset at the plate when they’re trailing and have them hit like that all the time,” Donsbach said after the River Bandits scored seven runs in shut-down innings. “That’s kind of been our thing as a team this year. For whatever reason, that’s who we are.”
Benner retired nine of the final 11 hitters he faced to close out the game.
Saturday, in the first game of the weekend series, Christian Petersen (Patrick Henry) tossed five innings of three-run ball in the start, but an eight-run Stevensville rally in the top of the seventh doomed the River Bandits in an 11-7 loss.
Shanks and Austin Bostater each finished with three hits, while Shafer finished 2 for 4.
The River Bandits scored one run in the first and in the second before exploding for five in the third, but Stevensville scored the final 10 runs of the game for the win.
Napoleon rebounded in game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, as Frank tossed six scoreless innings to lead the River Bandits to the 8-2 win.
Frank struck out five and allowed one hit before yielding to Williams, who allowed a pair of runs in the seventh before closing out the win.
Shanks had a pair of hits and two RBI, while Vold drove three runs in on one hit. Bryer Bentley (Montpelier) knocked in one run.
The River Bandits scored five runs in the second and three runs in the third to account for its scoring.
Stevensville picked up another rally win in game one Sunday, scoring one in the top of the seventh to force extra innings before plating two in the eighth to win.
Willeman got the start on the mound, allowing one run on one hit in 5 2/3 innings. Levi Gonyer (Otsego) allowed three runs in 2 1/3 innings in relief.
Hunter Bostater finished 2 for 4, while Benner, Williams, Austin Lichty (Antwerp) and Jacob Smith (Napoleon) each added one hit.
Napoleon scored one run in the first and one in the fourth to account for its scoring.
Despite losing a pair of late leads in the split, Donsbach said he was happy with his team’s play over the weekend.
“We played 28 really good innings of baseball this weekend,” Donsbach said. “I know we had a couple of late losses there, but I think that we did a good job of playing solid baseball. We just have to find a way to be better at closing out games, because we have struggled with that this year.”
The River Bandits (11-6) travel to face Van Wert tomorrow at 6 p.m.