TORONTO - The Toronto and Steubenville Catholic Central baseball teams collided for the second straight day at the Knight baseball complex Wednesday with the Crusaders claiming another victory over the Red Knights.
Unlike Tuesday's assault in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Class 2A semifinal game, where the Crusaders won 12-0, Central was forced to scrap out a 4-1 decision this time around.
Freshman hurler Chris Murphy pitched a gem for Central, going six innings and giving up one run on four hits while striking out four. Senior Steven Mihalyo provided relief in the seventh, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
TURNING TWO — Catholic Central second baseman Steven Mihalyo throws to first to complete a double play as Toronto’s Austin Lucas slides during the Crusaders’ 4-1 win at the Knight Baseball Complex Wednesday.
-- Fred Younce
"He (Murphy) gave us a quality start," said Central head coach Don Young. "I wasn't sure how long he'd go. He hasn't pitched in a couple of weeks and he came in and did an outstanding job for us."
Toronto senior Spenser Sninchak threw a strong game for the Red Knights as well, going the distance with seven strikeouts and no walks.
"Spenser did a heck of a job keeping us in the game," said Toronto head coach Brian Perkins. "He was throwing three pitches for a strike.
"He gave us an opportunity and unfortunately, today, we didn't come through."
Central manufactured its first run of the game on a pair of Toronto second- inning throwing blunders.
David Bertoia led off the frame with a single. Aleks Porreca laid down a sacrifice bunt to push Bertoia to second with one down. Sninchak then made a move to pick off Bertoia at second but the throw ended up in the outfield, allowing him to advance to third. The throw attempting to get Bertoia at third ended up at the fence along the base line allowing him to score and give Central a 1-0 lead.
"The last couple days we've been booting the ball around," said Perkins. "It's uncharacteristic of our season.
"Our kids are ballplayers, they battle through that, and we'll continue to field the ball like we've been doing all year."
The Crusaders received more assistance from the Red Knights to help put two more runs on the board in the third. Murphy reached base on an error to lead off the inning. B.J. Grandinetti followed up with a single and Mihalyo moved Grandinetti and Murphy to second and third respectively with a groundout to second. Brenton Colabella then pushed Murphy across the plate and Grandinetti to third with a groundout to shortstop. Grandinetti then scored on a passed ball to put Central up 3-0.
"Sninchak pitched a nice game," said Young. "He kept us of balance. We didn't swing the bats very well. That's been our game a lot of the year. We haven't hit the ball the way we want to.
"We've gotten used to scoring runs like that. The last week to 10 days we've been swinging the bats better, but that's been our game."
In the top of the fourth the Crusaders extended the lead to 4-0 with back-to-back doubles by Aleks Porreca and Josh Merriman. Merriman ripped one at third and the ball took a nasty hop over the fielder's head sending Porreca home. Left fielder Chez Glenn made a nice throw attempting to get Porreca at home, but the Crusader came in just ahead of the tag.
The Red Knights picked up their only run in the bottom half of the fourth. Austin Lucas reached with a single and Sninchak drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs. Lucas advanced when a failed pickoff throw ended up in center and Tyler Antinone sent him home on a sacrifice fly.
That was all for the scoring though as each team had only two batters reach base the rest of the way.
Mihalyo entered in the bottom of the seventh with one on and struck out the first two he faced before forcing a game-ending flyout to left.
"Murph's pitch count was down so we stayed with him long, but we wanted to get Steve a little bit of work, just trying to keep him fresh," said Young. "We have a lot of confidence in what Steve can do."
The win gives Central a 3-0 record over its sectional rival with a fourth meeting expected to take place come tournament time against Toronto and its 17 straight sectional titles.
"The good thing about baseball is tomorrow you get up and we've got another game scheduled," said Perkins. "We're just going to continue to get better and hopefully make a run in the tournament."
Toronto (11-6) hosts Bridgeport today.
Central (16-4) is in action at Vaccaro the next two days, facing city-rival Big Red today followed by a matchup with Linsly in the OVAC Class 2A title game Saturday at 5 p.m.
"We're just trying to come every day and get better," said Young. "We've said that every day since day one. We said that way back in October when I got here.
"In the next two days we'll have to get better to compete with those two teams."
Catholic Central 4, Toronto 1
Catholic Central 012 100 0 - 4 6 0
Toronto 000 100 0 - 1 4 3
CENTRAL (16-4): Murphy (WP, 4K, 3BB), Mihalyo (7th, 2K, 0BB) and Merriman. Grandinetti s, r; Mihalyo s; Colabella d, rbi; Bertoia s, r; Porreca d, r; Merriman d, rbi; Murphy r.
TORONTO (11-6): Sninchak (LP, 7K, 0BB) and King. Owens s; Lucas s, r; Antinone s, rbi; King d.