MASSILLON — It had all the makings of a classic sequel. Just 24 hours after pulling off an 11th-hour comeback in the regional semifinals, the Keystone Wildcats were back at it, knocking on the door of another thriller.
But Keystone’s second installment of postseason fate took a decidedly bitter turn.
The Ursuline Fighting Irish were rocking back off their heels, but scored four runs in a decisive seventh inning, slamming the door on the Wildcats’ hopes in a 7-2 victory on Friday in the Division III Region 9 championship at Carl “Ducky” Schroeder Field.
Ursuline will return to the state tournament for a second straight year after falling to Marion Pleasant in the title game a year ago. They will play Bloomdale Elmwood on Friday in Columbus.
The pitcher tagged for the loss in last year’s state championship was freshman Shawn Roman.
“Making it to the state title game last year was very special, but we felt we left our championship in Columbus,” said Roman. “We don’t want to make the same mistake twice.”
With the way Roman is pitching, Ursuline won’t have to worry. The 16-year-old sophomore was downright nasty Friday, holding Keystone to four hits and one earned run in a complete game.
Working with a power fastball and disappearing curve, Roman kept the Wildcats off-balance all afternoon. Outside the fourth and fifth innings, in which the Wildcats scored two runs on three hits, Roman allowed only two baserunners and three baseballs to leave the infield.
The last thing Roman needed was a margin for error, but that’s precisely what Keystone gave him.
In the opening inning, the Wildcats made three fielding gaffes – two of which were charged as errors – that led to three runs. Ed Rohan, a senior catcher for Ursuline, laced an RBI double and Roman drove in a run with a slap single.
Keystone had its best pitcher on the hill in junior left-hander Steve Wirth, who was 8-0.
“I felt great coming into the game, but I don’t know what happened that first inning,” said Wirth.
Wirth corrected himself and cruised over the next five innings, allowing only two batters to reach base.
That bought the Wildcats time.
Nick Kennedy roped an RBI double in the fourth to score Kyle Shaw and one inning later Jim Reid scored on Nicholas McCartney’s error at second base on a Tim Giesel grounder.
But it all came apart in the seventh inning when Ursuline’s Russ Reuella smoked a bases-clearing triple over the head of right fielder Kyle Minnich. Three runs scored and the Fighting Irish were back in the state tournament.
The Wildcats are unique in that four of their top starting pitchers are left-handers. As a result, opponents have had an unusually hard time stealing bases. So hard, in fact, that recent opposing coaches have complained to umpires that Keystone’s southpaws cross the line between holding runners and committing a balk.
Those complaints finally registered with umpires Friday. Wirth was charged twice with balks – and in both cases the runner ultimately scored.
It was a landmark season for Keystone (24-7), who broke a school record for wins in a season.
“We have seven seniors on this team and they’re a big reason why we went this deep,” said coach Mark Clement. “Now we’ve got to go back and look at next year and keep working. You lose some and you gain some more and you keep on going.”
Contact Pete Alpern at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AB R H BI AB R H BI
Reuella 4 2 1 3 Shaw 3 1 1 0
Yarab 3 1 0 1 Lindstrom 2 0 0 0
Rohan 4 1 2 1 Kennedy 2 0 1 1
Finn 2 0 0 0 Nagy 3 0 0 0
Lapikas 3 0 1 1 Clement 3 0 1 0
Roman 2 1 1 1 Wirth 3 0 0 0
McGahagen 2 0 0 0 Reid 3 1 1 0
Chance 1 0 0 0 Minnich 3 0 0 0
Wielbruda 3 1 1 0 Giesel 2 0 0 0
McCartney 3 1 1 0
Totals 27 7 7 7 Totals 24 2 4 1
Ursaline 300 000 4 — 7 7 1
Keystone 000 110 0 — 2 4 2
2B – Rohan, Kennedy. 3B – Reuella, Rohan. SB – Reid. CS – Burton, Clement. SAC – Yarab. LOB – Ursaline 3, Keystone 3.
IP R ER H BB SO
Roman (W, 7-1) 7 2 1 4 1 8
Wirth (L, 8-1) 7 7 5 7 3 4