HANOVERTON - It might be early in what has been a rain-filled baseball season, but what limited sunshine is out there is certainly shining on the United Eagles.
Jansen Sneltzer struck out 16 batters and Gage Chestnut had the game-winning RBI in the seventh inning on a sacrifice bunt as United improved to 5-0 with a 5-4 win over Crestview on Thursday.
"Anyone can win this league this year," United coach Bob Manfull said. "Any win we can get right now is big for us. I know we're the leader, but a few losses can happen quick."
Despite being very cautious about his team's standing, Manfull's Eagles are a conference best 4-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier.
He was not shy in heaping a large amount of praise on his senior starter. After all, the first seven outs the Eagles recorded were strikeouts.
"Without him this season we'd be in big trouble," United coach Bob Manfull said. "He's our go-to guy and he's been great all season. We're glad he's on our team."
Sneltzer, who has some experience playing Class B summer ball in Youngstown, also had a key hit in the seventh to set up the winning run.
"I just kept on throwing and didn't think about the strikeouts," Sneltzer said. "I cared more about the win than anything."
The Eagles, who were the visiting team on the scoreboard due to Crestview's field not being ready, gave him an immediate lead with a Bubba Creer RBI single in the first inning.
In the fifth, Brett Albright had an RBI single on a bunt and Garrett Beech had a two-run single to push the score to 4-0.
Through 4 and 2/3 innings, Sneltzer wasn't experiencing much trouble as he recorded 11 strikeouts, but that all changed when a Creer throwing error on a pickoff attempt let in the first run.
"I've been telling them all week to not make stupid mistakes because it seems like once we make one it snowballs on us," Manfull said.
Brian Orr added an RBI single and then the Rebels tied it after a high pop fly to first by Brandon Jayne was lost in the sun.
"I got frustrated, but it's just a mental thing," Sneltzer said. "We just had to keep going and figure out how to get out of it."
Sneltzer was sharp the rest of the way as he struck out four in retiring the last six in order, but he was on pins and needles as the Eagles had to work to get that last run.
In the top of the seventh, Beech led off with a single against Crestview hurler Logan Schaefer. Creer struck out and then Sneltzer singled. Chestnut, the largest player on the team, had struggled up until that point, so Manfull decided to let him bunt. It worked like a charm as Beech came home to give the Eagles the lead.
"I don't think anyone expected it," Manfull said. "I don't think he expected it to tell you the truth. It was a perfect bunt though."
Crestview (4-4, 2-3 in the ITCL upper tier) will look to bounce back in the second game of the series when it is played on Wednesday.
"We weren't disciplined at the plate tonight," Crestview coach Matt Strank said. "That's basically what the game came down to."
Even though the Rebels have three losses in the league, the coach isn't counting his team out yet.
"The league is very balanced," Strank said. "It's one of those years where everyone has a chance."
United is at Carrollton on Saturday, while Crestview hosts Wellsville today.
U-Jansen Sneltzer, wp (16K, 1BB, 1HBP) and Bubba Creer.
C- Logan Schaefer, lp (10K, 1BB, 1HBP) and Adam Coppock.