SOLON — Coach Grant Relic felt uneasy as his Brunswick baseball team traveled to defending Greater Cleveland Conference champion Solon, and Nate Kusner turned those fears into reality.
Only a Mike Williams single to lead off the seventh inning prevented Kusner from a no-hitter Tuesday, as the right-hander sparkled in a cleanly played, 4-0 GCC game that took a tidy 93 minutes.
The Blue Devils (7-4, 5-1) fell into a first-place tie with Solon (9-3, 5-1) after managing a mere four baserunners, wasting a gutsy start by Scott Rouse.
“A lot of it today was our mental approach,” Relic said. “The hard part of today is our guys had a chance to hit the ball (in the Brunswick batting cage) after school, and not many guys showed up. A lot of it was our mental preparation and getting ready to play.
“We expected to walk out on the field today (and win), and you saw what happened. We can’t just show up against good teams.”
Kusner is rated among Prep Baseball Report’s top 50 Ohio prospects in the class of 2020 and visited Division I George Washington over the winter. The 5-foot-11, 150-pounder featured tight mechanics and a leg kick and threw 54-of-90 pitches for strikes.
Brunswick went down in order in the first, second, fifth and sixth innings, as Kusner threw first-pitch strikes 14 times, did a great job working back from down in the count by staying around the strike zone and caught the Blue Devils looking multiple times with a quality 12-6 curveball.
Kusner had help in the sixth, when second baseman Grant Barson threw out Jacob Scherette from the seat of his pants and shortstop Ryan Guggenheim made a diving stop on the next pitch before gunning down Dylan Nagy.
“He was effective because he got ahead of us early,” Relic said. “More importantly, he was able to throw his off-speed for strikes, and I think that was the big difference in the game.”
The right-handed Rouse (2-1, 1.75 ERA) pounded the zone and finished with 57 strikes on 82 pitches, three earned runs, one walk, one hit batter and a career-high 11 strikeouts. All of the Solon runs came in the first three innings, but Rouse dialed in to no-hit Solon over the fourth, fifth and sixth.
The Comets broke the ice when a Sloan Ulrich single plated Jack Westrich (2-for-3, 2 RBIs, run) in the second. They added insurance in the third following an error and a bad hop that began a string of three straight hits, with the dagger a Westrich two-run single off the left-field wall.
Rouse stopped the bleeding with six strikeouts over the next three innings, but the Brunswick bats never came alive.
“Unfortunately sometimes that’s how baseball goes,” Relic said in reference to the second and third innings. “They had balls get through, and when we’re up to bat they’re making nice plays and knocking the ball down. That’s the difference today. They made plays and we didn’t.”
Solon 4, Brunswick 0
BRUNSWICK 000 000 0 — 0 1 1
SOLON 013 000 x — 4 6 1
WP — Nate Kusner 7 innings, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts. LP — Scott Rouse (2-1) 6 innings, 3 earned runs, walk, hit by pitch, 11 strikeouts. Brunswick (7-4, 5-1). Solon (9-3, 5-1) — Ethan Wong double, run; Jack Westrich 2 singles, 2 RBIs, run.