Toronto races to 25th straight sectional crown over Shenandoah, 10-0

HUSTLING — Toronto’s Brendan Matyas runs to first base after bunting against Shenandoah in a Division IV sectional final Tuesday. (Photo by Joe Catullo)

TORONTO — The Ohio Valley has changed a lot in the last 25 years, but one thing has not — the Toronto baseball team winning a sectional title.

With a milestone in its grasp, No. 2 seed Toronto played another strong, all-around game against No. 8-seed Shenandoah. The Red Knights took down the Zeps, 10-0, in six innings in a Division IV Eastern District sectional final Tuesday evening at the Knights Baseball Complex.

The victory over the Zeps gave the Red Knights their 25th-straight sectional title, as well as enabling them to reach the 20-win plateau for another season.

“It is very special,” Toronto (20-5) head coach Brian Perkins said. “Twenty-five is a nice number to hit. It says a lot about all of the ex-players and coaches we have had over the years who have helped maintain the streak and the program”

The Zeps entered the game on a hot streak, but that came crashing to a halt against the Red Knights.

“We ran into a really good team,” Shenandoah (13-12-1) head coach Matt Weddle said. “We knew that coming in. We were excited to play them. We had beaten Barnesville when they were ranked No. 1 in Division III. In the month of May, we were 5-1. We wanted to come here and play well. The first batter of the game reached on an error, and I thought that was going to set the tone for the game, but it did not.”

With the win, Toronto is scheduled to play No. 1 seed Hiland in the district semifinals at 5 p.m. Monday at Minerva. Hiland advanced by defeating No. 13 seed Malvern, 11-1, in another sectional final Tuesday.

“Hiland has a very good program,” Perkins said. “Our kids are looking forward to representing the community of Toronto to the best of their abilities.”

Toronto led 9-0 entering the bottom of the sixth, and the Red Knights ended the game two batters into the inning. Nate Karaffa, who also was hit by a pitch, drew his third walk of the game. He scored on a double to left field by Nick Sninchak to make the score 10-0.

“It was a total team effort today down to the guys in the dugout,” Perkins said. “The guys in the dugout brought enthusiasm, and they helped with the little things. It is very nice to see a team where everyone supports one another. They wanted to get this milestone. They wanted to keep this streak going.”

Karaffa was sharp on the mound, as he picked up the win. He finished with 10 strikeouts, one walk and limited Shenandoah to just two hits in six innings of work. He did not allow a hit for the first 3 2/3 innings.

“We knew going in that Nate has been pitching strong games for us,” Perkins said. “As a team, we have had an excellent week of practices. Our coaches did a nice job preparing the kids along with the scouts.”

Lane Howell started for Shenandoah and took the loss. Howell tallied one strikeout, two walks and allowed five runs on seven hits in his 2 1/3 innings on the mound before leaving the game with an injury. Dayton Hill pitched the final 2 2/3 innings. He did not record a strikeout, walked three and allowed five runs on five hits.

Lucas Gulczynski tallied three singles and two RBIs for Toronto. A.J. Clegg collected three singles and an RBI. Sninchak picked up an RBI on a sacrifice fly in the second, along with having the game-ending run-scoring double. Kobe Herrick recorded a two-run single. Tristan Thomas singled and doubled, and Zac Berger ripped a triple.

“They get in your head,” Weddle said. “They have a lot of tradition. When you come up here, you play a team with a lot of tradition. They have a runner get a lead from second base, and it results in a balk by our pitcher. We are known for having a rowdy, rowdy dugout, and they quieted us up. They got into our heads. Along with pitching and hitting and everything else, they got into our heads.”

Easton Hitchens and Logan Waers singled for Shenandoah.

HISTORY IN

THE MAKING

Perkins came to Toronto as an assistant coach for the 1994 season. The sectional championship streak began the next year in 1995.

“Honestly, we do not talk about it. We don’t talk about if the kids feel pressure to not let the streak end,” Perkins said. “They probably do, but we don’t talk about it.”

Matt Morrison guided the Red Knights to the first 11 straight sectional titles, while Perkins has guided Toronto to its last 14.

“I was fortunate to come in here and coach under Matt Morrison,” Perkins said. “I had the opportunity to work with Matt, and we have been able to keep the streak alive.”

HOW THEY GOT HERE

Toronto shut out No. 17 seed Beallsville, 17-0, in four-and-a-half innings in the sectional semifinals Saturday at home, while Shenandoah defeated No. 7 seed Tuscarawas Central Catholic, 14-4, Saturday on the road.

“We only have two seniors,” Weddle said. “We have a lot of juniors, sophomores and freshmen. We are going to have 16 of our 18 kids back. We are doing a great job building the program. I wanted to come here and play them. I wanted us to see what we need to do to get to the level Toronto is at.”

The Hawks defeated the Red Knights, 5-1, in the district final in 2015 at Cambridge.

“We are going to practice and prepare for Hiland,” Perkins said. “We want to have good practices while we prepare. The coaches will do a good job of getting the kids ready.”

Toronto 10, Shenandoah 0

Shenandoah 0-0-0 0-0-0 — 0-2-5

Toronto 2-3-0 2-2-1 — 10-12-1

SHENANDOAH (13-12-1): Howell (lp, 2 1/3IP, 5R, 7H, 1K, 2BB), Hill (2 2/3IP, 5R, 5H, 0K, 3BB) and Waers

TORONTO (20-5): Karaffa (wp, 6IP, 0R, 2H, 10K, 1BB) and Thomas

TWO OR MORE HITS: Shenandoah none; Toronto 3 (Gulczynski 3, Clegg 3, Thomas 2). DOUBLES: Shenandoah none; Toronto 2 (Sninchak, Thomas). TRIPLES: Shenandoah none; Toronto 1 (Berger). HOME RUNS: Shenandoah none; Toronto none. RBIs: Shenandoah none; Toronto 8 (Gulczynski 2, Sninchak 2, Herrick 2, Clegg, Matyas).

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