Lee Frantz knew Thursday morning’s game would be a challenge.
When the Bears outfielder checked the Division 3 standings before the game and saw the Bills looming just a game and a half behind his squad in second place, he started preparing for a battle.
“I looked at the records and I saw that they were doing really well, so I knew it was going to be tough,” he said. “It was very important for us to get a win here.”
The Bears managed to get the win, coming from behind and holding off a late surge to win 16-11 and retain their spot atop the standings.
“It was a very important game to get some breathing room,” Bears manager Larry Harshaw said.
Breathing room was something the Bears didn’t have much of during Thursday’s game, though. The Bills came out ready to play in the top of the first inning, just as Frantz expected.
“The first two hitters hit over my head so right away they were scoring,” he said.
The visitors notched two runs in the first inning, which the Bears matched in the home half. However, the Bills regained the lead with four runs over the next two innings.
The Bears tied it again at 6-6 in the bottom of the third, though, earning their last two runs of the inning on a bloop to the shallow outfield and an infield single.
“It was like a new game after that,” said Frantz. “It was like you’re starting over, which was great because we had some rough times out there in the outfield.”
The Bears held the Bills without a run for the next two innings before finally finding their offense. They scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth without recording an out, taking an 11-6 lead.
“Have fun and do it with the sticks, that’s what we always say,” said pitcher John Veltre.
The lead didn’t remain comfortable for long. The Bills scored three in the top of the sixth, aided by several defensive miscues.
“When you see balls that should be outs and they’re not outs, that kind of brings you down a little bit,” Veltre said.
It looked as though the Bills were about to tie the game on a deep drive headed for the center-field gap but Frantz tracked it down and made the crucial catch to end the inning.
“Any time you’re going back, you never know what’s going to happen,” Frantz said “Thank goodness it ended up in my glove.”
The Bears rebounded with another five-run inning, extending the lead to 16-9. After surrendering two more runs in the top of the seventh, they emerged victorious for the 10th time this season.
“I’m really pleased with a win against a really good team,” Harshaw said.
“The most important thing is how we came back being down,” said Veltre. “I think that shows the mettle of the team. I think that’s really key.”
With just four games left in the season, the Bears are confident they can hold onto their lead to claim a title.
“I think this team’s got it all, I think we do,” Veltre said. “We don’t have any weak spots.”
Staff writer Drew Chaltry can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5233, or email@example.com.