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Niedenthal, Strasburg shut down, eliminate Catholic Central

FIRING — Catholic Central catcher Jayden Keeder attempts to throw out a Strasburg runner trying to steal a base during Monday’s Division IV East District semifinal at Claymont High School. (Photo by Andrew Grimm)

UHRICHSVILLE — Strasburg’s pitching staff has been shutting everyone down to this point in the tournament.

It did the same to Catholic Central on Monday.

Tigers’ senior starter Mitch Neidenthal picked up his second complete game shutout of the postseason, as No. 4 seed Strasburg blanked the No. 5 seed Crusaders, 3-0, in the Division IV East District semifinal at Claymont High School.

Strasburg (19-11) has not allowed a run in the tournament.

“We just could never get anything started,” Central head coach Don Young said. “It was a struggle from the first pitch. We didn’t swing the bat well at all. I kept thinking we would get it going, but we just never could. They were solid and didn’t give us opportunities.

“It’s tough. I thought we were prepared coming out here. They are solid, we knew that. We did some decent things but, when you don’t score any runs, you’re not going to beat anybody.”

The Crusaders (13-10), limited to just three hits, left five men on base — including three in scoring position. Central got the leadoff man aboard to start the first, third and fifth innings, but could not capitalize. Central also had a man on with one out in the fourth and sixth.

“We hit too many balls in the air,” Young said. “(Neidenthal) kept us off balance. I don’t know how many pop-ups and fly outs we had. It was a bunch. Our approach at the plate was not real good today.”

Neidenthal struck out six and walked two, throwing 92 pitches to secure the win. All but one of his punchouts were swinging.

“They had a couple of opportunities with guys in scoring position, and Mitch beared down,” Strasburg head coach Mike Becker said. “He’s not overpowering, but he throws hard enough. He throws strikes, and he throws both pitches for strikes. At the high school level, you can put doubt in the hitter’s head if they know the breaking ball or the change up might be coming in the zone. He’s a senior and is doing everything you want a senior to be doing this time of year.

“He’s a competitive kid. This tournament atmosphere is what he really thrives in.”

Matt Bell also struck out five in his six innings of work but issued an equal number of free passes with four walks and a hit batter. He fired 95 pitches, gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits.

“Matt kept us in the game,” Young said. “He didn’t have his best stuff, but he kept us in it. They had quality at bats to keep innings going and scratch their runs out, and we just were not doing that. “

Luca Connor drew a walk to start the game, but the next three Crusaders went down in order to strand him on third. It was the only time a Central baserunner made it to third base.

“Luca got on to start the game and, after that, it was just a struggle,” Young said. “Offensively, defensively, all the way around it was struggle.”

The Crusaders failed to capitalize on a pair of errors by the Tigers in the third inning. Ryan Gorman gave Central a quality chance to get on the board in the fifth, blooping a ball that dropped in shallow left-center and legging it out for a double. Like the first inning, the next three batters went down in order — two on infield pop-ups and a lineout to short.

The Tigers got their runs in a variety of ways.

Mike Neidenthal led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, advanced to third on a fly out and scored on Mitch Neidenthal’s RBI groundout to make it 1-0.

In the bottom of the second, Jace Walker led off with a single and scored on a two-out RBI single by Branden Toyer with the bases loaded, following a Central error. Nick Martin attempted to score from second but was tagged out by Crusaders’ catcher Jayden Keeder to end the inning and limit the damage.

In the fifth, Mike Neidenthal provided some insurance. He led off with a double and scored on a Wade Hostetler sacrifice fly to make it 3-0.

“We scored in the first inning without getting a base hit,” Becker said. “We did some stuff that we haven’t been doing offensively. It’s not like we exploded, but we got enough.”

Mitch Neidenthall retired the side in order to end the game — and Central’s season — in the top of the seventh, striking out the last two.

SENIOR FARWELL

The Crusaders lose six seniors in Noah Fayak, Dom Argentine, Paul Carapellotti, Bell, Zach Campbell and Austin O’Kruta.

“They are really quality kids, more than just baseball players,” Young said. “They come from tremendous families. All six of them did everything I asked of them. The hardest thing … I wish it could have worked out for us to get to that district final for them and give ourselves a chance, but it just didn’t happen. Some of those guys didn’t play a whole lot, but they played a key role for us. They were always ready when called upon. They gave us a ton of leadership.”

ANOTHER CRACK AT THE RED KNIGHTS

Strasburg and Toronto have met in each of the last three post seasons, and four of the last five, with the Red Knights winning all four meetings. Thanks to Toronto, the No. 2 seed, getting a 4-0 win over top-seeded Hiland on Monday, the teams will add to that streak and meet in the district championship for a third consecutive season.

“They are ranked in the state every year for a reason,” Becker said. “They have a great program with great coaches and kids that buy in. It’s been a long time since we got past Toronto, not any time recently. It’s going to take our best performance. The way our guys have been pitching we’ll give ourselves a chance. Coach (Brian Perkins) will have his guys ready to go, and our guys are excited to try and get over that hump.”

UP NEXT

Catholic Central: Season over

Strasburg: Will play Toronto for the district title at 5 p.m. on Wednesday at Minerva.

(Grimm can be reached at agrimm@heraldstaronline.com)

No. 4 Strasburg 3, No. 5 Catholic Central 0

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

Strasburg 1-1-0 0-1-0 x — 3-5-3

CATHOLIC CENTRAL (13-10): Bell (lp, 6IP, 3R, 2ER, 5H, 5K, 4BB, 1HBP) and Keeder.

STRASBURG (19-11): Mit. Neidenthal (wp, CG, 0R, 3H, 5K, 2BB) and Hostetler.

TWO OR MORE HITS: Catholic Central none; Strasburg none. DOUBLES: Catholic Central 1 (Gorman); Strasburg 1 (Mik. Neidenthal). TRIPLES: none. HOME RUNS: none. RBIs: Catholic Central none; Strasburg 3 (Mit. Neidenthal, Troyer, Walker).

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