CLEVELAND — Avon Lake’s first-inning magic wasn’t enough against St. Ignatius in a Division I regional semifinal at Case Western Reserve University on Thursday.
The Shoremen scored in the first inning for the fifth straight playoff game and added a run in the seventh, but the Wildcats held on for a 3-2 win to advance to the regional final today back at Nobby’s Ballpark. The Wildcats will face Toledo St. Francis — a 10-5 winner over Perrysburg in a game played at Bowling Green State University.
The problem for Avon Lake was its inability to cash in with runners on base.
The Shoremen left 11 runners stranded against four St. Ignatius (25-6) pitchers, leaving Shoremen coach Kevin Marlow lamenting about the missed chances.
“(The Wildcats) were just a little bit better than us today,” Marlow said. “We pitched great, they pitched great, they were just a little better than us … what are you going to do?”
“We certainly had our opportunities in the first three innings and hit a little rut in the middle innings. This team has shown resolve all year and I thought we were going to get to them in the seventh.”
The Shoremen started just like they have every other postseason game by scoring early to put pressure on the opposing team.
Jeremiah Campo was hit by St. Ignatius starter Tom Rolle (6-0), Brad Hamilton singled to right and Kyle Kuhar singled to left to drive home Campo for a 1-0 lead. Matt Morissette followed with a hard hit ball to short, but that was turned into an inning-ending double play.
Shoremen starter Brett Kiser (4-3) had been lights out through the postseason, but struggled against St. Ignatius. The Wildcats left the bases loaded in the first before breaking through in the second with three runs on three hits.
Dan Rowbottom drove home the first run with a sacrifice fly to left, Tyler Finkler had an RBI single to left and Conor Hennessey added the final run with a flare double down the right-field line.
The Wildcats loaded the bases again in the third against Kiser on a single, a walk and a hit batter. In between, Kuhar cut down a runner at the plate on a groundball to third to keep St. Ignatius from scoring.
“I just didn’t have my best stuff today,” Kiser said. “I felt good during warm-ups, but I just couldn’t find my curveball today. I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t working today.”
Kiser was pulled after the hit batter and junior Logan DeLong relieved to get a groundout to first. DeLong was masterful over the next three innings, giving up just one hit to the Wildcats.
“After watching Brett throw, I knew I had to keep the ball low (against the Wildcats),” DeLong said. “I tried to let our defense take care of the ball if they hit it.”
After St. Ignatius scored its three runs, Avon Lake kept stranding runners — leaving one on in the third, a pair on in the fifth after hits by Hamilton and Matt Gottshall and another in the sixth following a two-out double by Cole Rosmarin.
The Shoremen had several chances to tie the game in the seventh, but the clutch hits they’ve relied on throughout the postseason eluded them against the Wildcats.
Campo and Hamilton reached against sophomore closer M.J. Nara and Campo scored when Kuhar stroked his second hit of the game through the middle to cut the St. Ignatius lead to 3-2 with just one out.
Junior Nick Fabian relieved Nara after the run scored. Fabian got Matt Morissette to hit a fly ball to second base before surrendering a walk to Matt Russell.
Rosmarin drove a 1-0 pitch to deep right, but the ball was caught by Nick Longo to end the game.
“(The Wildcats) definitely took the momentum, scoring three runs in the second inning,” Rosmarin said. “I think we tried to get that momentum back, but it’s a heartbreaker losing a game like this. I just wanted to help the team and I felt I did except for that last at-bat.”
Contact James Brady at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.