STEUBENVILLE - In a game like the one played between Steubenville Central and Toronto the difference between winning and losing is which team can come up with the big plays in the clutch.
Thursday at Vaccaro Field the Crusaders came up with three huge seventh-inning plays to secure a hard-earned 4-3 victory over the Red Knights.
"Our effort is never lacking," said Central head coach Don Young. "I'm so proud of our guys. It's been a tough transition for our guys through the winter time. We got a lot of older guys, some of them are in new roles, but they've hung together and the whole team has supported each other. We have a lot to work on, but that is a real good baseball team over there we beat. We'll take it for tonight, but we have to get better for tomorrow."
OUT AT HOME — Catholic Central’s Brenton Colabella is tagged out at home by Toronto catcher Ralph King after Colabella was caught in a rundown off a pickoff play at third. The Crusaders downed the Red Knights 4-3 Thursday at Vaccaro Field.
-- Fred Younce
With the score tied at three after six innings, Central received its first clutch play from center fielder Brannt Pieniazek. Toronto's Ralph King led off the top of the seventh with a laser toward the gap in left center that looked destined for an extra base hit. Pieniazek got on his horse though and made a spectacular diving grab for the out.
After Brad Melville reached base for the Red Knights when he was hit by a pitch it was Brenton Colabella's turn to make the big play for the Crusaders. Toronto designated hitter Evan Johnson smacked a line drive toward left field that looked like a sure hit.
Colabella went up and made a highlight reel leaping stab of the shot and then doubled up Melville at first to end the frame.
"Both teams had their opportunities," said Toronto head coach Brian Perkins. "We kicked the ball around a couple times and it cost us. It's early on in the year, our kids are resilient, they kept battling, and we're going to continue to get better and plug away."
It was then Dave Bertoia's chance to step up for his ball club in the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, B.J. Grandinetti on second and Colabella on first, the Crusader designated hitter stepped to the plate with a chance to end the game. Bertoia was up to the challenge lining a single that brought home Grandinetti for the Crusaders 4-3 victory.
On the mound, the Crusaders received a solid effort from the combination of Stephen Mihalyo and Chris Murphy. Mihalyo left the game after five innings with a 3-2 Central lead. Murphy entered in the sixth and gave up just one unearned run in two innings to pick up the win.
Bertoia was strong at the plate for Central with three singles and the game-winning RBI. Grandinetti added two singles, an RBI and two runs scored, with Mihalyo chipping in with a single and a run-scoring double.
"I would love to point out a bunch of guys, but I won't because every day it's somebody different," said Young. "We're just stressing we have 13 or 14 guys with us and every night it's someone different. We've been playing a bunch of them and it doesn't matter who's out there we get the same effort. I'm just proud of our guys.
"We have a long way to go to have something like the program Toronto has, but hopefully we're heading in that direction."
Spenser Sninchak went the distance on the hill for the Red Knights and also led them at the plate with a single, double, RBI and run scored. Austin Lucas had a double and scored a run while Tyler Owens had a single.
"Spenser did a outstanding job keeping us in the game," said Perkins. "He's been a leader all season. I can't say enough. He had an outstanding game. he showed a lot of guts and got us out of some big innings, but we expect that out of him. He's our senior."
Both teams play today with Central (4-0) hosting Shadyside and Toronto (2-1) hosting Brooke.
Central 4, Toronto 3
Toronto 100 011 0 - 3 5 3
Central 100 020 1 - 4 8 2
TORONTO (2-1): Sninchak (LP, 2K, 3BB) and King. Owens S, run; Lucas D, run; Sninchak S, D, RBI, run; Melville RBI; Johnson 1B.
CENTRAL (4-0): Mihalyo (4K, 5BB), Murphy (WP, 6th, 0K, 1BB) and Laukert. Grandinetti 2S, RBI, 2 runs; Mihalyo S, D, RBI, run; Panella RBI; Bertoia 3S, RBI; Laukert S; Pieniazek run.