HENRIETTA TWP. — With an overnight trip to Columbus for a doubleheader looming, Keystone knew it had to work fast Friday against Firelands.
Senior pitcher Kendle Stiner did his part.
Stiner tossed a three-hit shutout, walking one and striking out nine, and helped his cause by going 2-for-3 with a double, two runs and four RBIs as the Wildcats downed Firelands 10-0 in a mercy-rule-shortened Patriot Athletic Conference Stars Division game.
Keystone (8-2, 6-0) had survived a tough 3-2 win at home over the Falcons (3-5, 2-3) on Wednesday.
But it was a different story Friday.
“I was a little afraid that after three games — this being our third game in a row — that we’d have a little trouble coming out here hungry,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said.
“But the kids came out and executed in all phases of the game. We eliminated the little mistakes that we had against (Firelands) last time.
“It seemed like last time we played them every half-inning there was something, whether it was baserunning, a bad decision at the plate, an error, there was always something. But today, we seemed to have it all together. We pitched extremely well, we hit extremely well and we fielded extremely well.”
Stiner (4-0) helped give himself an early 3-0 cushion. Following Tyler Gullett’s one-out RBI single in the top of the first, Stiner delivered a two-run double to center, scoring Gullett and Collin Fitzgerald.
Gullett went 3-for-3 with three runs and an RBI.
“It was a little chilly in that first game, but they’re a solid ballclub,” Stiner said. “We just came out with the mindset that we were going to put them down in the first inning, which we did. Once we do that, we’re tough to stop.
“It’s huge because then I get to go out on the mound with a lead and I just can let it rip and do what I want. I don’t have to go out there thinking too much. Just pitch the ball.”
The only trouble Stiner ran into was in the third inning, when he gave up a leadoff double to Steve Pete, a single to Kevin Rollins and a two-out walk to Cole Sklarek to load the bases. But he coaxed a popout to second from cleanup hitter Frank Johnson, who had hit a leadoff double in the second, to get out of the jam.
Starting with that out, Stiner retired the final seven hitters, three by strikeout.
“Kendle is 4-0 now and he’s been fantastic this year,” Fitzgerald said. “You can’t say enough about him. His basic approach to the game … he overpowers guys, hitting his zones, he’s doing great.
“And he delivered two big hits for us. Sometimes he’s a little streaky at the plate, but now he’s hot, and that’s what we need. Sometimes he thinks a little bit too much at the plate, and today he just went up there and let loose, and it paid off for him.”
Stiner was credited with an RBI in the third when his two-out grounder was mishandled by Pete for an error, which scored Gullett. He later scored on Cory Horne’s two-run single to make it 6-0.
In the fifth, after Pierce Young and Gullett led off the inning with a double and single, respectively, Stiner drilled an RBI double to right-center to make it 8-0. Young scored one pitch earlier on a double-steal.
Stiner made it 9-0 after scoring on a wild pitch, and a one-out RBI single to center by Denny Szalai drove in the final run Keystone needed to end the game early. Keystone sent 10 men to the plate in the fifth, scoring four runs on five hits.
“I think (Keystone) came out ready to go today and we came out a little flat,” Firelands coach Doug Benzel said. “That was the difference today. We were on the doorstep in the third, but the one thing we’ve been lacking this year is that big hit with two outs. But those come and go. Once those start falling for us, we’ll be all right.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.