PARMA — With Elyria Catholic having secured a spot in the Division III district final, it was up to Keystone and Clearview to battle for the other in the nightcap at Ron Mottl Field.
And the Wildcats wasted no time in making it theirs for the third straight year. Keystone will be back at Mottl Field tonight at 6 to defend its district crown against the Panthers.
Keystone (22-7) erupted for six runs in the first inning on the way to a 14-5 victory over the Clippers. Powering the Wildcats was junior Tyler Gullett, who opened the floodgates with a two-run triple to right-center that brought in Pierce Young and Collin Fitzgerald for a 2-0 lead.
The Wildcats never looked back.
“I was sitting fastball,” Gullett said. “They (Clearview) couldn’t find their curveball, so I just waited for mine. Waited for my count, drilled one and brought in some runs.”
Gullett’s drive to deep right-center was just the appetizer for the Wildcats. The next batter, Marcus Gunter, reached first on a dropped third strike when Clearview catcher Jared Miller threw the ball into right field to bring in Gullett. Keystone starting pitcher Kendle Stiner followed with a single before Clearview recorded its first out as Korey Horne grounded out. A sacrifice fly by Cameron Schumann brought in Keystone’s fourth run, but the Wildcats weren’t done.
Successive two-out singles by Aaron Brodnik, Denny Szalai and Young helped bring in another pair of runs to give Keystone a 6-0 lead. In all, Keystone sent 11 men to the plate, generated six hits, six runs and essentially took the wind out of the sails of the Clippers.
“That was fantastic,” Keystone coach Bert Fitzgerald said. “I said after the first tournament game that we weren’t a first-inning team. These guys just came out and took it to them. They put us on top to stay.
“What more can you ask for?”
Clearview (15-13) loaded the bases in the bottom half of the inning as Stiner hit the first two batters and walked the third. Stiner struck out the fourth batter before walking the fifth to bring in pitcher Roger Engle for a run. With the bases still loaded and one out, Stiner struck out Jack Bennett and ended the inning on a flyout to left field by Chad Anderson to leave the bases loaded.
Keystone scored another run in the top of the second on an RBI single by Gunter that brought in Gullett to put the Wildcats up 7-1. Clearview came back in the bottom half with a two-run triple by Ryan Vargo to make the score 7-3.
It was 9-4 in favor of Keystone when the Wildcats struck again in the top of the sixth. For the second time the Wildcats batted around. The damage this time was four runs on five hits to push the lead to 13-4.
In addition to Gullett, who went 2-for-3 with two triples to power the top of the order, Keystone got solid hitting at the bottom of the order as No. 9 hitter Denny Szalai went 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
“I was just sitting on the fastball,” said Szalai. “I was just doing my thing and doing my job out there. Our whole lineup is bringing the bats and scoring some nice, easy runs. I think it gives us confidence.”
For Clearview, the game was about missed balls and missed opportunities.
Five errors, including three in the first, contributed to Keystone’s success. The Clippers also stranded seven runners and didn’t capitalize when they had the opportunity.
In addition to the first inning, the Clippers had men on first and third with one out in the fourth but could only get one run across before Stiner closed out the inning.
“You can’t make five errors at any level of play and expect to win a ballgame,” Clearview coach Dennis Pihlblad said. “Especially against very good ball teams. It’s just not going to happen.”
Contact Hans Schneider at 329-7135 or email@example.com.