BRIDGEPORT - Catholic Central was well on its way to clinching a third straight Division IV sectional baseball title Wednesday before Mother Nature threw a temper tantrum.
The top-seeded Crusaders put a three-spot on the board in the fifth to take a 5-0 lead over Shadyside. Heavy rain then began to fall and quickly turned the Niekro Diamond at Perkins Field into a total mess.
Tournament officials suspended the contest (which earlier was delayed by lightning) and announced it will resume at 5 p.m. Friday. The other sectional co-final matching Toronto against Bridgeport reportedly has been moved to Saturday.
PLAY AT SECOND — A Shadyside player attempts to slide into second base, but is met by Michael Barber of Steubenville Catholic Central. The Crusaders presently lead the Tigers 5-0 as the game was called due to rain.
Should Don Young's club, which sports a 17-5 record, hold on, it will advance to the D-IV district in Cambridge on Monday.
Central scored its first run in the home half of the opening frame. Brenton Colabella legged out an infield single. He moved to third when Stone Romano dropped a base hit into right. Colabella came home on Austin Oliver's grounder to short.
The Crusaders struck again in the fourth. Aleks Porreca worked Shadyside starter Austin Dorris for a two-out walk. Josh Merriman followed by lacing a triple to right, plating Porreca.
Central 5, Shadyside 0
(Game suspended by rain)
Shadyside 000 00 - 0 4 2
Central 100 13 - 5 5 1
SHADYSIDE: Dorris (3BB) Frizzi (5) and McFarland.
CENTRAL: Murphy (3 BB, 6K, 2 HBP) and Romano. Murphy S; Colabella S; Romano S; Oliver S, 2RBI; Merriman T, RBI.
Michael Barber led-off the fifth with a walk. He swiped second and reached third thanks to Chris Murphy's single. Shadyside committed a throwing error trying to erase Murphy at second, allowing Barber to touch the plate. Murphy came home when Colabella reached via an error. Oliver's base knock to left brought Colabella home with run number five.
Following Oliver's hit; Dorris was replaced on the mound by Zack Frizzi. Just as the lefty was completing his warm-up, the rain began to fall.
"We played better offensively tonight and we've been waiting for that," Young said. "We hit the ball well and hopefully we can score some more runs and give ourselves a bigger cushion."
"We took a big step forward and there were some real positive signs."
When play resumes, Kutch Clark will be at the plate with Oliver at first.
Murphy was strong on the hill for Central, scattering four hits through five. He recorded six punch outs.
The Tigers did load the bases in the third with one out. Cole Crow singled before Billy Johnson and Luke Nardo were both clipped by pitches. Murphy avoided trouble by recording a strikeout and inducing a fly ball to left.
"It was huge getting those runs in the fifth," Young said. "Now we don't have to bring Murph back. With the lead, we can go another direction. It's big to have that lead."
Murphy did receive plenty of help from his teammates in keeping Shadyside scoreless. In the second, Josh McFarland got a two-out single. He attempted to steal second but was cut down on Romano's throw to Colabella.
In the Shadyside fifth, Travis Fulton led off with an infield hit. He too was caught stealing, this time Romano fired a strike to second baseman M. Barber. Two batters later, Johnson hit a ground ball that bounced off Murphy's glove and was fielded by Colabella at short. The senior made an outstanding throw to Merriman at first to just get the Shadyside runner.
"That play was huge," Young noted. "Our defense really stepped up tonight."