Red Knights celebrate district crown, Perkins’ 300th victory

CELEBRATING — The Toronto baseball team celebrates winning a Div. IV district title over Strasburg on Wednesday in Minerva. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

MINERVA — In Division IV, the East District still belongs to Toronto.

The Red Knights got a complete game shutout from Nate Karaffa and two RBIs each from Lucas Gulczynski and Zac Berger to claim the district title for a third consecutive year with a 6-0 victory over Strasburg Wednesday evening at Minerva’s Carl Michael Field.

In the process, Toronto coach Brian Perkins picked up his 300th victory with the program.

“Our kids really showed up (Wednesday) with a goal in mind,” Perkins said. “They showed up focused and came out and really executed. We got an excellent performance on the mound and played well behind him.”

Perkins gave the credit for the milestone to the players and assistant coaches throughout his 25 years.

“It just shows there have been a lot of good players through the years,” he said. “Without all the good players, I am not there. The credit goes to them and a lot of good assistant coaches that have been with me through the years. I am excited for them and all the players from the past and this year. It was just exciting to get the win and enjoy that with these guys here.”

Karaffa gave Perkins a strong performance all the way around, striking out seven and walking just one on the mound, while batting in a run and drawing three walks at the plate.

“Nate just got out there and threw strikes,” Perkins said. “If you throw strikes in a big game, things usually are going to work out for you. He mixed up three pitches and located well.”

The junior was happy to get the job done for his coach.

“It’s big,” Karaffa said. “We’ve been here before, so we knew what we needed to do to advance. We had a couple of clutch hits at big times, and that’s what we needed to win. It’s great (to get Perkins’ 300th). He’s a great coach and puts in a lot of time of effort for us, and we really appreciate it.”

The Red Knights (20-4-1) took advantage of a couple of errors to take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Karaffa drew a leadoff walk and took off to steal second base. The throw missed the target and the ball was missed by the outfielder allowing Karaffa to get up from his slide and storm all the way home.

Toronto took control even more in the third when Nick Chetock led off the inning with a single, and Karaffa walked again. Nolan Clegg was intentionally walked to load the bases before Gulczynski hammered a ball to the wall for a two-run double. Berger drove Clegg across with an RBI groundout, and the Red Knights took a 4-0 lead.

“We’ve been playing really well defensively and getting some good outings on the mound,” Perkins said. “We knew it was important for us to get a lead and get comfortable, and our kids did that.”

Clegg walked again in the fifth and, once again, Berger drove him in with a groundout to make it 5-0.

The Tigers (14-13) had at least one base runner in every inning and were threatening to make it much more interesting in the top of the sixth inning when back-to-back hits by Andrew Cregan and Mitch Neidenthal and a walk drawn by Justin Stropky loaded the bases with no one out.

Karaffa got out of it, though, retiring the next three in order to slam the door shut. After he drove in Chetock with an RBI single in the bottom of sixth, he finished strong on the mound in the top of the seventh to seal the win.

“That was huge,” Perkins said of Karaffa getting out of the jam unscathed. “Our guys just are not scared of a moment. Nate threw some big pitches there.”

Strasburg left a total of eight runners stranded in the game.

“We gave ourselves a chance to score in every inning and, unfortunately, we never got with a runner in scoring position and they did,” Strasburg coach Mike Becker said. “Brian has a great program and they do a hell of a job. We know we have to play one of the best teams in Division IV to get out of our district. They’re a top five team in the state, and you have to play perfect to beat a team like that. We played well, just not well enough.”

The Red Knights move on to next week’s regional tournament, beginning on Thursday in Lancaster.

“It is always exciting to win and represent the East District in the regionals,” Perkins said. “I know our kids have been looking forward to it since last year.”

Toronto 6, Strasburg 0

Strasburg 0-0-0 0-0-0 0 – 0 7 2

Toronto 1-0-3 0-1-1 x – 6 5 1

STRASBURG (14-13): Cregan (LP, 5 2/3IP, 6R (5ER), 5H, 2K, 6BB), Mik. Neidenthal (1/3IP, 0R, 0H, 0K, 0BB) and Hostetler.

TORONTO (20-4-1): Karaffa (WP, CG, 0R, 7H, 7K, 1BB) and Keenan.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Strasburg (Mit. Neidenthal 2); Toronto (L. Gulczynski 2, Chetok 2). DOUBLES: Strasburg: 2 (Mit. Neidenthal, Haswell); Toronto: 1 (L. Gulczynski). TRIPLES: Strasburg: None; Toronto: 1 (L. Gulczynski). HOME RUNS: None. RBIs: Toronto (L. Gulczynski 2, Berger 2, Karaffa).