ELYRIA — Brendan Holley gave Jack Laird all the runs he needed in the first inning Wednesday.
Holley hit a towering two-run home run deep over the left field fence as fifth-seeded Elyria Catholic picked up a 2-0 win over a scrappy, young Padua team to advance to Monday’s Division II district tournament at Tri-C against top-seeded Holy Name.
The 13th-seeded Bruins upset fourth-seeded Firelands on Tuesday for only their second win.
“It felt good,” Holley said of his home run. “I was just trying to get it started, get a run in. Jack’s our rock. We surround around him whenever he pitches. He definitely delivered for us.”
Gavin Hrobat was hit with a pitch square in the back with one out in the first inning. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on Holley’s blast.
EC (12-12) hit the ball hard all day but couldn’t score any more runs.
Laird, EC’s right-handed ace, battled through a couple of tough early innings unscathed and finished with a flurry, striking out the side in the last inning to preserve his fifth win of the year. He fanned a dozen hitters, while walking five and scattering four hits.
“I was a little amped up,” Laird said. “I was leaving it up a little bit but as the game went on I found myself and kept putting it down in the zone.”
“Jumping out early like that, he was able to attack the hitters a little more,” EC coach Bruce Lisicky said. “You could tell he had his adrenalin going. He was missing high a lot, falling behind, having to battle back.”
Padua loaded the bases in the second inning with one out. Laird walked a pair of hitters but came back to strike out Justin Barta and Daniel Rocco to end the threat. In the third, Spencer Frieby led off the inning with a single but catcher Grant McClure gunned him down trying to steal. It was the second runner McClure threw out on the day.
“That’s all you can ask for as a pitcher in the playoffs,” Laird said. “You just want good defense behind you.”
“As the game went on, he might have been getting a little tired,” Lisicky said. “It actually helped his off-speed stuff, getting it over and even his fastball trying to keep it down more. He was at 122 pitches to end the game — 110 going into the last inning. He only had 15 pitches he could throw that inning. If anybody got on, we were at the point where we were flirting with bringing in (Jace) Drwal.”
Lisicky wasn’t surprised by Holley’s homer.
“He’s been smoking the ball lately,” Lisicky said. “I was just hoping he’d get a fastball, something he could turn on.”
“When you get a lead in the playoffs, anything can happen,” Laird said. “I trust my defense and Brendan getting that big hit got us amped up and propelled us the rest of the game.”
McClure and Aidan Timko each had two hits for the Panthers.
Padua, which plays in the tough North Coast League, made several nice plays in the field on hard-hit balls and played much better than its record.
“We have a very young team,” Padua coach Ken Ortiz said. “We just need to get over that hump of learning how to win.”