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STOW -- The run-up to Stow-Munroe Falls baseball's playoff opener was a bit less than inspiring.
Stow closed out its Suburban League National Conference schedule earlier in the week.
On May 8, the Bulldogs travelled to Nordonia and dropped a 5-3 loss to the Knights, who ended up in second place in the National Conference. Stow committed five errors in the loss.
Then on May 9, Stow hosted North Royalton and got pounded 11-2 by the Bears. A solo home run from senior Max Stillisano highlighted an otherwise gloomy afternoon for Stow.
With the losses, the Bulldogs finished the season at 5-9 in the National Conference.
Finally on May 10, Stow got a chance to play the top seed in the Division I Struthers district -- Kent Roosevelt -- at Kent State University's Schoonover Stadium.
Stow out-hit Roosevelt 11-5 in the game, but a four-run third inning by the Rough Riders paved the way for a 5-4 win.
That three-game slide wasn't exactly how the Bulldogs hoped to go into their playoff opener May 11 at home with Youngtown East.
Against the Panthers, however, everything clicked for Stow.
Sophomore Evan Bainbridge pitched the first no-hitter of his career, as Stow pounded out a 16-0 win over East, as the game was shortened to five innings thanks to the mercy rule.
With the win, sixth-seeded Stow advanced to face third-seeded Boardman on the road in a Division I sectional final game May 12. Results were not available at press time.
Stow's record stood at 10-13 after the win over the Panthers.
Bainbridge noted he had never thrown a no-hitter at any level.
"I only threw two off-speed pitches all day today," Bainbridge said. "Other than that, it was just rock back and let it go."
Bainbridge was one out away from a perfect game when he walked East catcher Xavier Felder in the top of the fifth inning. However, he came back to strike out Panthers' designated hitter Booby Croom to end the game.
Brainbridge (2-2) recorded 12 of his 15 outs via strikeout, as the Panthers failed to get a ball out of the infield.
"The plan was to get him some confidence today by having him just concentrate on his fastball," said Stow coach Aaron DeBord. "Evan did what he was supposed to do today."
About the only thing Bainbridge did wrong was strike out in his lone plate appearance in the bottom of the fourth inning. While he drew playful jeers from the teammates, the issue had long been decided by the time Bainbridge stood in.
Stow smacked 14 hits off of Panthers' starting pitcher Cullen Lyon. East also committed four errors on the afternoon while Stow played error-free ball.
Stow opened with two runs in the bottom of the first inning. Matt Conger reached on an error and first baseman Eric Schilling doubled, before right fielder Jordan Jolly hit an RBI ground out.
Second baseman Collin Lang then blasted an RBI triple to make it 2-0.
Stow blew the game open by scoring 12 runs in the bottom of the second, as the Bulldogs batted around twice on the Panthers.
Schilling hit a week's worth of RBIs in the innings, as he hit a three-run single in his first at bat, followed by a two-run single in his second at bat. Other highlights included an RBI triple by Jolly, a two-run single by catcher Drew Bradley and Lang smashing an RBI double in his first at bat. Colin Harris and Nick O'Verko each had an RBI single in in the inning.
"We had a very good approach at the plate today," DeBord said. "We did all that we needed to do."
Up 14-0 heading into the bottom of the third, DeBord emptied his bench, but Stow still got two more runs in the inning.
A lead-off single by Nate Hallam and an error was followed by Alex Kramer to load the bases. Stow then got back-to-back RBI singles from Bryce Shepherd and Brett Rhodes to make it 16-0.
DeBord said he was confident about his team's chances vs. Boardman.
"I haven't seen them since last year," DeBord said. "Jordan Jolly is going to get the ball tomorrow. If we can play good defense behind them, we should be fine."
The Division I Struthers district semifinal was set for May 18 at 4 p.m. at Bob Cene Park, though DeBord noted the game might be moved to accommodate Stow's graduation ceremony that night.