STEUBENVILLE - Greg Stagani was dominant on the mound and Koby Sronce delivered a key bases-loaded single as Edison advanced in Division II sectional play Thursday via a 3-1 win over Buckeye Local at Vacarro Field.
The victory sends the 24-3 Wildcats into Saturday's 4 p.m. lower bracket title match at Vaccaro Field against Big Red, a club Edison has defeated three times this season. The Panthers finished at 8-18 under first-year coach C.J. Besece.
Stagani retired the first nine batters he faced and finished with 14 strikeouts. He allowed two hits (fourth-innings singles by Shane Duncan and Josh Malesky) and fanned the side in three innings. Just five Buckeye Local batters were able to reach base against the Wildcat senior.
MOVING ON — Edison second baseman Philip Hilt completes a double play from teammate Chad Wickham as Buckeye Local’s Josh Malesky slides into second. The Wildcats earned a 3-1 win to move on to Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against Steubenville.
-- Mike Mathison
Besece's bunch plated its only run thanks to a unique set of circumstances in the seventh. Brian Zeroski was hit by a Stagani pitch and moved to second on a passed ball. He made it to third when Austin Marshall went down swinging but reached when the Edison catcher dropped the ball. Zeroski scored courtesy of a wild pitch.
"At this point in the season, we'll take it any way we can get it," Edison's Mike Collopy said.
"Greg pitched really well and defensively we made some key plays."
One of those key defensive plays came in the Buckeye Local fourth. The Panthers had runners on first and third with just one out when Zeroski hit a bouncer to short. Chad Wickham made a nice stop and started a 6-4-3 inning-ending double play.
Another took place in the sixth. Tyler Richardson led off with a shot to the hole between short and third. Chad Wickham recorded another web gem and fired to first where Mark Smyth got the scoop.
"He (Stagani) did a great job of mixing his pitches up and hitting his spots," Besece noted. "He had some real nice velocity and his curve ball was really on. He's tough to hit when he is on. We had a couple of opportunities and left some guys on base but credit him."
As Collopy pointed out, offensively his Wildcats "got a couple of hits when we needed them and sometimes that's all it takes."
Edison got to Buckeye Local starter Malesky for a single run in the third after the first two batters were retired. Wickham rifled a single to right and moved up on a passed ball. Josh Pasek delivered a hit when Edison needed it, dropping a single into right-center to score Wickham.
Alec Jones started the Edison fourth with a base knock to left. Nolan Marcus was hit by a pitch and Warren Rawlings recorded an infield pop single, filling the bases with Wildcats. Sronce stepped to the plate and drove a single up the middle, scoring Jones and Marcus.
"Koby had a really big hit," Collopy pointed out. "Any time you can get up by two or three runs, that takes away a lot of things the other team can do offensively."
Malesky, who earned the pitching win Saturday against Indian Creek, turned in a solid performance for the Panthers. He scattered eight hits and fanned five.
"Our kids battled and gave it their all," Besece said. "That's one of the best teams in the state as far as rankings go and we battled with them. I'm really proud of our kids.
"We have a fairly young team and this experience is going to help us down the road. We started the season off slow, but toward the end, we won three of our last five games. We got on a roll at the end and I hope that carries over into next season. I think the kids have bought in and I look for us to have a good year next season."
In addition to pocketing the pitching win, Stagani paced the Edison offense with two singles.
As far as Saturday's title game goes, Collopy noted "we have a few things to brush up on and then get ready to go."
The survivor of the Edison-Big Red battle will advance to district action at Warsaw Riverview. The upper bracket championship will be decided today when top-seeded Cambridge tangles with Minerva at Vacarro Field.
Edison 3, Buckeye Local 1
Buckeye Local 000 000 1 - 1 2 3
Edison 001 200 x - 3 8 2
BUCKEYE LOCAL (8-18): Malesky (LP, 5K, 2BB, 1 HBP) and Slaga; Duncan S; Malesky S.
EDISON (24-3): Stagani (WP, 14K, 0BB, 1 HBP) and Bertha; Sronce S, 2 RBI; Pasek S, RBI; Wickham S; Smyth S; Jones S; Rawlings S.