TORONTO - After the first meeting between Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A No. 2 seed Toronto and No. 3 seed Central ended in a 5-4 Crusaders victory on a seventh inning RBI single by David Bertoia, something similarly exciting was expected in Tuesday's OVAC semifinal game at the Knight Baseball Complex.
No one gave the Crusaders the memo, though, as they pounded out 14 hits, and Jimmy Panella gave up just four hits while striking out five and walking one en route to a 12-0, five-inning victory over the Red Knights.
"I thought we made a ton of mistakes early," said Central head coach Don Young. "We kept plugging. We do that every game. I can always count on our effort. We made a ton of mistakes early though, but we've been swinging the bats better, and Jimmy always gives us a top effort.
SAFE AT HOME — Catholic Central’s Aleks Porreca slides in safely for a run on a passed ball in front of Toronto’s Tyler Owens during the Crusaders 12-0 win in the OVAC Class 2A semifinal game at the Knight Baseball Complex Tuesday.
-- Fred Younce
"We were playing without B.J. Grandinetti tonight. He's going into the Air Force and he had to sign up today. I thought that was a big part of what we did. He hated missing the game tonight and it weighed a lot on our effort tonight I thought."
The biggest difference in the game was the Crusaders ability to produce when the opportunity presented itself, while Toronto was unable to capitalize on its chances.
"When they had situations they capitalized and we didn't," said Toronto head coach Brian Perkins. "That's the bottom line."
Central's first flurry came in the top of third in a scoreless game. With Steven Mihalyo and Kyle Laukert on first and second and two outs, Brenton Colabella stroked Toronto pitcher Tyler Owen's offering to right center field for a two-run triple.
Jimmy Panella drove in Colabella with a single and ended up on second when the ball was misplayed in left field. Bertoia then brought Panella home with a single to make the score 4-0 after two and a half.
"Tonight we scored some runs," said Young "We've been swinging the bats better.
"We're a pretty good team at times when we do those things. It's like every other team though - it's day-to-day."
The Red Knights received their first opportunity in the bottom of the fourth, still down 4-0. Austin Lucas reached base when hit by a pitch and Vance Goddard drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Tyler Antinone then picked up a two out single to load the bases for Evan Johnson.
Johnson sent a grounder up the middle, but Central second baseman Chris Murphy came up with the ball and pitched to the shortstop Colabella for the force at second, and the Crusaders got out of the inning with no damage.
"That's been our thing all year long," said Young.
"Pitching and defense. We've done it in big situations."
In the top of the fifth the Crusaders took advantage of the Red Knights inability to produce with a little two-out lightning. After the first two batters of the frame were struck out by Owens, the next 11 Crusaders reached base with eight different players scoring. Toronto made a pitching change from Owens to Nate Stewart after five runs crossed, but Central pushed across three more after the change to extend the lead to 12-0.
Aleks Porreca and Joey Irvin each had an RBI double in the frame with Panella adding a two-run single. Adam Lyons and Kyle Laukert each had a RBI single.
"We had two bad innings," said Perkins.
"We booted the ball around and any time you have as many runs as hits you're going to be in trouble."
Toronto tried to return the favor with a two-out rally of its own in hopes of extending the game in the bottom of the fifth. Owens reached on an error followed by an Austin Lucas single.
Then Spenser Sninchak came up with a hustle play, diving into first base to beat out an infield single. Panella forced the next batter, Goddard, to fly out to right field where Porreca hauled it in to complete the 12-0 mercy rule decision and send the Crusaders to the OVAC Class 2A final Friday at 5 p.m. in Bridgeport against Linsly.
"We've got a couple games before that," said Young.
"We're not even thinking about that. We're just lucky to get out of Toronto with a win tonight."
Before that game takes place these teams are set to go at it for the third time this season today in Toronto. "Our kids are resilient," said Perkins. "We'll bounce back tomorrow and we'll be ready to play tomorrow."
Added Young about today's game, "We have to come back here so we have to prepare again for this onslaught and I know they're going to be ready."
Catholic Central 12, Toronto 0
Catholic Central 004 08 - 12 14 1
Toronto 000 00 - 0 4 4
CATHOLIC CENTRAL (15-4): Panella (WP, 5K, 1BB) and Laukert. Mihalyo 2s, 2r; Irvin d, rbi, r; Colabella t, 2rbi, r; Panella 2s, 3rbi, 2r; Bertoia 3s, rbi, r; Lyons s, rbi, r; Porreca s, d, rbi, r; Pieniazek s, r; Laukert s, 2r, rbi.
TORONTO (11-5): Owens (LP, 5K, 1BB), Stewart (5th, 1K, 2BB) and King. King s; Antinone s; Lucas s; Sninchak s.