Ginter pitches complete game as Bowling Green powers past Greenwood
The sudden passing of young Mason Goodnight last year had a profound effect on Bowling Green senior Ben Ginter, who had known Goodnight his entire life as the two families have been close friends for over two decades.
Ginter’s emotions were riding high going into the second annual “Playing for Mason” game against Greenwood on Thursday night, and his motivation showed in his performance on the mound.
The Purples’ pitcher pitched a complete game and allowed just two runs, and the Purples slugged two home runs—including a grand slam by Joe Howard that put the game out of the reach in the top of the sixth—on the way to a 13-2 victory over the Gators at Corey Hart Ballpark to take the rubber game of the District 14 series.
“He was like a little brother to me,” Ginter said. “It was a great honor to be able to come out (Thursday night) and pitch for Mason.”
“He’s capable of doing that all year, but this is a special day for him,” Bowling Green coach Matt Myers said. “He put Mason on his shoulder; they were really close. I’m proud of him.”
Ginter surrendered just two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out nine in a full seven innings of work.
The way Ginter carried himself on both the mound and inside the dugout spread to the rest of the team as the Purples exploded for 13 runs after having only scored 65 through their first 15 games of the season.
“They were inspired with him,” Myers said. “Some innings I had to tell (Ginter) to get off his legs and sit down. But this whole team (Thursday night)…I’ve been waiting for them to play like this.”
“I couldn’t be more proud. 20 years of coaching, and I’ve been around some really good teams and really good players—Major Leaguers and all of that—and this may be one of the proudest days that I’ve been a part of a team.”
Bowling Green (8-8, 3-3 District 14) was led at the plate by Howard, who went 1-for-4 for five RBI. Eli Thurman went 2-for-4 with three RBI while Will Garske went 1-for-3 with a two-run homer.
After going down fairly quietly in the first two innings, the Purples exploded in the top of the third.
Bo Morton led off with a walk before Eli Burwash reached on an infield single when he laid down a bunt to put two runners on base with nobody out.
Thurman followed with a 2-RBI triple to left to put Bowling Green on the board with a 2-0 advantage.
Jay Buser laced an RBI single to left to plate Thurman, and the Purples took a 5-0 lead when Garske blasted a two-run shot over the center field fence. Bowling Green put its first seven batters of the inning on base before Gator relief pitcher Lance Upright bore down and limited the damage by not allowing any more runs.
Held to just one hit and whiffing seven times through the first four innings, Greenwood finally found its rhythm against Ginter in the bottom of the fifth.
Cade Thornton reached on an infield single before Nate Cunningham slugged an RBI double to center to put the Gators on the board.
The Gators (12-8, 5-4) continued to chip away as Maddox Burr laced a two-out RBI single to plate Cunningham and make the score 5-2, momentum beginning to shift in Greenwood’s favor.
Howard then delivered the blow that took the wind out of the Gators’ sails.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Howard belted a pitch over the wall in right field to give the Purples a commanding 9-2 advantage.
“I knew (Gator relief pitcher Colton Jones) was going to throw that fastball and I was sitting on it,” Howard said. “He threw it, I put a good swing on it, and the result was a home run which I was really happy with.”
“He needed it,” Myers said. “Joe’s been grinding, and that was just a beautiful swing. You couldn’t be more happy for a kid in a moment like that.”
The Purples continued the offensive onslaught in the top of the seventh as Burwash reached on an error to bring in another run before Thurman delivered an RBI single to extend the Purples’ lead to 11-2. Garske scorched an RBI single to center field, and Howard had an RBI fielder’s choice to give Bowling Green a 13-2 edge going into the bottom of the seventh.
Ginter set the Gators down in order to seal the win in a game—that as Myers coined—was “bigger than all of us”.
“It pushed me greater than I could have ever imagined,” Ginter said. “I was out there for Mason tonight.”