Red Knights keep rolling, advance to 2A final
TORONTO — The Toronto baseball team keeps rolling along.
The top-seeded Red Knights jumped out to a big lead against fourth-seeded River in an OVAC Class 2A semifinal, had a bit of a hiccup in the fifth enabling the Pilots to get back into the game, but bounced right back and put the game away as the Toronto came away with a 9-3 victory Saturday afternoon at the Knights Baseball Complex.
“The kids were excited to play in the OVAC Tournament,” Toronto (15-1) head coach Brian Perkins said. “They brought that excitement to the field. We were able to get off to a quick start, and we were able to keep the momentum going throughout the game.”
The Red Knights — the No. 1 ranked team in Ohio Division IV — led 7-0 after three innings.
“Toronto is very well coached,” first-year River (11-7) head coach Tim Blue said. “Coach Perkins has an outstanding program. That banner out there says Division IV State Champions 2019. He is one of the best coaches in the state of Ohio. You can’t give up 11 walks, and expect to beat any team let alone the No. 1 ranked team in the state.”
With the win, Toronto will play Shadyside in the tournament final at either 5 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Knight Baseball Complex. Shadyside — the No. 2 seed — shutout No. 3 seed Shenandoah, 1-0, Saturday afternoon in the other semifinal.
“We are excited to represent the Toronto community in the OVAC Tournament,” Perkins said. “Shadyside is a good team. We are looking forward to playing in the finals.”
Chris Parker got the win for the Red Knights. He allowed one run on one hit while striking out six and walking three in four-plus innings of work on the mound.
“Chris Parker did a nice job,” Perkins said. “He came out and threw multiple pitches for strikes. He kept the momentum on our side. River has some talented ballplayers.”
Parker was relieved by Dom Bouscher with one on and nobody out in the top of the fifth. Bouscher pitched the rest of the way, allowing three runs on four hits while striking out five without walking a batter.
River also used two pitchers. The pair for the Pilots struggled with their control as the duo combined to give up eight walks while also hitting two batters.
Mark Martie took the loss for the Pilots. He allowed six runs on five hits while striking out five and walking four in his 2 1/3 innings on the mound. He was replaced by Connor Hunter, who pitched the final 3 2/3 innings. Hunter allowed three runs on five hits while striking out one and walking four
“We had too many called third strikes,” Blue said. “You cannot do that and keep the momentum. We aren’t scoring enough runs. We have to do a better job of making contact with the ball.”
All 14 hits in the game were singles. Toronto out-hit River, 10-4.
Evan Wolter recorded two singles and two RBIs to lead the way offensively for the Red Knights, Avery Wiegand and Caleb Leasure each tallied two singles and an RBI and Parker picked up a single and two RBIs. Also, Brant Reeves collected two base hits and Bouscher brought home a run with a sacrifice fly.
“They hit the ball,” Blue said. “They do the little things. You cannot give them walks, and you cannot make errors. They hustle. They are told to do something, and they do it.”
Jake Rose and Martie each tallied a single and an RBI, Elijah Wayt and Hunter each collected a base hit and Brody Lollathin brought home a run with a groundout for River.
Bouscher led off the home half of the first inning with a walk, and he stole second and third before scoring on a base hit by Wolter to give Toronto an early 1-0 lead.
Reeves and Earley both singled to put two runners on in the second. After a strikeout, Leasure walked to load the bases. Reeves scored on Bouscher’s sacrifice fly, and after Weigand was hit by a pitch, Wolter singled home Earley to increase the Red Knights advantage to 3-0.
Toronto broke the game open in the third as the Red Knights put four runs up on the scoreboard to extend their advantage to 7-0. Toronto’s big inning was aided by multiple River errors. Leasure and Weigand delivered RBI singles, while the other two runs scored on errors.
“I am proud of our seniors,” Blue said. “We have six seniors. They are not going to get the chance to play in another OVAC game, but I am proud we were able to make it to the tournament. We only have 13 boys on the roster.”
River’s comeback bid was aided by some Toronto errors.
With River Thompson, who was hit by a pitch, on first with one out, Hunter reached on an error and moved to second when an errant throw went into the dugout. Martie then singled Thompson home from third to put the Pilots on the scoreboard. Lollathin then plated Hunter with a groundout and, finally, Rose brought home Martie making the score, 7-3.
“That happens in baseball,” Perkins said. “We made a mental mistake. We were able to overcome that.”
The Knights responded with two runs in the home half of the inning. Parker picked up an RBI with a groundout, and Wolter followed with his second RBI single of the game to make the score, 9-3.
“We have focused all year on having plate discipline,” Perkins said. “We see a lot of pitches. When you see a lot of pitches, you have a chance for success in the box.”
Toronto has won nine OVAC titles. The Red Knights first captured a conference championship back in 1987. Since then, the Knight have brought titles to the the Gem City in 1999, 2000, ’06, ’08, ’09, ’15, ’16 and ’19.
Toronto is tentatively scheduled to play Brooke at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the KBC.
“Brooke is having a heck of a year,” Perkins said. “Coach (Ron) Ujcich was a good friend of ours. I am glad they are doing well. C.J. (Besece) spent one year here. He is doing a good job. I think he will continue to do a good job.”
River is tentatively slated to play Cameron at 5 p.m. Monday on the road.
Toronto 9, River 3
River 0-0-0 0-3-0 0 — 3 4 3
Toronto 1-2-4 0-2-0 x — 9 10 4
RIVER (11-7): Martie (LP, 2 1/3IP, 6R, 5H, 5K, 4BB), Hunter (3 2/3IP, 3R, 5H, 1K, 4BB) and Castro. Martie S, RBI; Lollathin RBI; Rose S, RBI; Wyat S; Hunter S.
TORONTO (15-1): Parker (WP, 4IP, 1R, 1H, 6K, 3BB), Bouscher (3IP, 2R, 4H, 5K, 0BB) and Earley. Bouscher RBI; Wiegand 2S, RBI; Parker S, 2RBIs; Wolter 2S, 2RBIs; Reeves 2S; Leasure 2S, RBI.