GALION — It took Galion’s Ryan Utz more than three years to hit his first career home run.
The wait for his second and third homers was significantly shorter.
The Richland Bank Athlete of the Week, Utz belted three home runs in as many days as the Tigers went 2-1 last week.
None of Utz’s bombs was more dramatic than the first. He hit a seventh-inning go-ahead grand slam in a 7-5 Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference win at Clear Fork on Tuesday. The Tigers trailed 5-0 going into the seventh only to score seven runs in their final at bat.
“That was my first home run of my high school career and it couldn’t have come at a better time,” Utz said. “It was a fastball up and in and I just got up there knowing I could do it. I was just trying to get a base hit and that happened.”
Galion’s leadoff hitter, Utz was 0-for-2 with a walk in his previous three trips to the plate against the Colts. He didn’t waste any time in his fourth plate appearance, turning on the first offering from Clear Fork reliever Dylan Jewell and sending it over the wall in left.
“He’s an All-Ohio kid,” Galion coach Phil Jackson said. “He’s having an amazing season. He’s batting over .500 for us and he’s just a dangerous kid.
“He’s got some good pop. That was big and that’s why we put him in that position. I’m so happy for him.”
The Colts earned a measure of revenge the following day, beating Galion 16-3. But Utz and the Tigers bounced back with a run rule-shortened 11-1 win over Willard on Thursday. Utz hammered two more home runs and knocked in three runs in the win.
A senior, Utz ranks among District 9 leaders in batting average (.517), home runs (3), runs scored (19) and stolen bases (10). He has been used sparingly on the mound because of elbow tenderness, but earned the save in the win over Clear Fork.
Galion and Clear Fork are tied atop the MOAC standings at 6-2 at the midway point. The Tigers have two games against Shelby this week and a home-and-home series with defending MOAC champ Ontario next week.
With Utz leading the charge, the never-say-die Tigers should remain in the hunt for the MOAC title.
“We’re never done until that last out … those kids really believe that,” Jackson said. “They never give up and they keep fighting.”
“When we get hot, we feed off each other,” Utz said. “We can be dangerous if we get the momentum rolling.”