Toronto erupts in sixth inning to defeat Catholic Central in Div. IV district semifinal game

GETTING IT STARTED — Toronto’s Kobe Herrick claps his hands and heads to second base after doubling against Catholic Central in a Div. IV district semifinal on Tuesday at Edison. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

RICHMOND — The Catholic Central baseball team was playing with fire early on against Toronto, but the fourth-seeded Crusaders kept managing to get out of trouble against the top-seeded Red Knights.

That all changed, however, in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The game was deadlocked and the first batter of the inning was retired, but the Red Knights soon caught on fire as Toronto plated eight runs in the inning en route to a 9-1 victory in an Ohio Division IV Eastern District semifinal Tuesday evening at Jefferson Lake State Park.

“Nolan (Clegg) pitched a heck of a game on the mound,” Toronto (19-4-1) head coach Brian Perkins said. “The kids came out excited and they were ready to play, but I think we just had some jitters at the plate early on. You have to give credit to their pitcher. He kept us off balance, but we kept battling and we were able to break through in the sixth.”

The Red Knights recorded four hits in the game, and the victors took advantage of multiple miscues as Catholic Central committed five errors in the inning.

“I am just so proud of the effort our guys gave,” Catholic Central (10-10) head coach Don Young said. “They came out ready to play, and we stayed with them, but it got away from us in that one inning. They are a really good team. We gave them an opening, and they took advantage of it. We went off of the rails. It is tough to finish the year with an inning like that.”

With the win, Toronto will play No. 7 seed Strasburg at 5 p.m. today at Minerva’s Carl Michael Field in the district final. Strasburg advanced to the district title tilt by defeating No. 2 seed Caldwell, 5-4, in the other semifinal Tuesday out at Cambridge.

Clegg picked up the victory for Toronto. He struck out five, walked two and allowed an earned run on three hits, one of which went for extra bases.

“We had some good swings early on, but then he started to change speeds on us,” Young said. “Clegg is a tremendous player. I told coach Perkins that after the game. He did a good job changing speeds.”

Catholic Central used three pitchers in the game, and all three pitched in the decisive sixth. Matt Bell started the game and took the loss. He struck out three and walked eight in 5 1/3 innings of work. He allowed two unearned runs on two hits.

Josh Costello replaced Bell after he had a 2-1 count on Aaron Clegg. Costello, who walked one, did not record an out before he was replaced by Zach Campbell, who pitched the final 2/3 of the inning. Campbell did not tally a strikeout or a walk.

Nick Sninchak contributed a pair of RBI singles for Toronto. Zac Berger, Zach Gulczynski and Nate Karaffa all tallied an RBI single. Kobe Herrick collected a double. Karaffa, Sninchak, Berger and Gulczynski all plated runs with RBI singles in the sixth.

“I think it was just a matter of seeing pitches,” Perkins said about what led to his team’s big inning. “We had some good at-bats early on, but we were not getting the results we wanted. Our kids continued to battle, and we were able to break through. We had opportunities early on, but they did not work out.”

Noah Fayak finished with a triple for Catholic Central, Costello collected an RBI single and Ryan Gorman recorded a base hit.

“Noah had that big hit for us, and we were able to tied it up,” Young said. “Then, that one inning happens. That’s baseball. That inning just happened at the wrong time for us today.”

The game was scoreless for four-and-a-half innings. Toronto had opportunities to score as the Red Knights had seven base runners — six reaching safely via walks — through three innings, but they were unable to come through with a clutch hit. Toronto was also hurt by its inability to bunt the ball early in the game.

Herrick led off the fifth Toronto’s first hit of the game, a double to center field. Then with two outs, Sninchak singled, scoring Herrick giving the Red Knights their first lead, 1-0.

Catholic Central countered with a run in the top of the sixth. Fayak started the inning with a triple (he was called safe at third on a bang-bang play at the bag). Then with one out, Costello singled him home to knot the score.

Toronto broke the game open in the home half of the inning.

Cole Bodnar, who batted for Gulczynski, walked with one out, and Gulczynski came back into the game to run the bases. Next, Clegg reached on an error, and Herrick walked to load the bases. Nick Chetock then hit a ground ball in front of the mound, but the throw home was errant, allowing Gulczynski and Clegg to score to give the Red Knights a 3-1 advantage.

Karaffa followed with an RBI single, and Chetock scored on an error on the play to make it 5-1. Sninchack singled home another run, and Nolan Clegg reached on another error before Berger and Gulczynski belted back-to-back RBI singles with two outs before Campbell got out of the inning with a fly ball to left.

“Nolan Clegg, a senior, pitched a great game, and we played great defense behind him,” Perkins said. “We played errorless defense. Nolan kept us in the game until we were able to break through with the bats.”

Clegg retired Catholic Central in order to end the game.

“I’m really proud of these kids,” Young said. “We have come a long way from the start of the season to the end of the season. Toronto is a really good team. They are the favorite in Division IV, and we gave them our best shot. We just came up a little short. This team has come so far since that doubleheader against Barnesville. I am so proud of the guys.”

Toronto 9, Catholic Central 1

Catholic Central 0-0-0 0-0-1 0 — 1 3 5

Toronto 0-0-0 0-1-8 x — 9 6 0

CATHOLIC CENTRAL (10-10): Bell (LP, 5 1/3IP, 2R, (2ER), 2H 3K, 8BB), Costello (0IP, 0K, 2H, 1BB), Campbell (2/3IP, 2H, 0K, 0BB) and Argentine.

TORONTO (19-4-1): Clegg (WP, CG, 1R, 1(ER), 3H, 5K, 2BB) and Keenan.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Catholic Central none; Toronto 1 (Sninchak 2). DOUBLES: Catholic Central none; Toronto 1 (Herrick). TRIPLES: Catholic Central 1 (Fayak); Toronto none. HOME RUNS: Catholic Central none; Toronto none. RBIs: Catholic Central 1 (Costello); Toronto 5 (Sninchak 2, Karaffa, Berger, Z. Gulczynski).