LORAIN — It didn’t take Amherst long to realize it might be in trouble during Friday’s Division I district semifinal.
Avon Lake scored three runs in the top of the first inning without the benefit of a hit and the Comets failed to score after loading the bases with no one out.
The Shoremen didn’t need much more thanks to a spectacular performance by starting pitcher Brett Kiser as they advanced with a 5-0 win. Avon Lake (17-10) faces Midview in the district final today at 6 p.m. at The Pipe Yard in Lorain. The winner advances to the Cleveland regional at Case Western Reserve University on Thursday at 5 p.m. against either St. Ignatius or Normandy.
“We lost the game in the first inning, there is no beating around the bush,” Comets first-year coach Matt Rositano said. “We had three errors and two passed balls and (the Shoremen) are winning 3-0 without a hit.”
Jeremiah Campo reached on a fielding error, Brad Hamilton was safe on a slow roller to first and Campo beat the throw to second base after the shortstop was pulled off the bag.
One run scored when Matt Morissette reached on a throwing error and two more came home on passed balls before Amherst’s Griffin Weir, who will play for Stanford next year, struck out the next two batters to end the inning.
It looked like the Comets (21-6) were going to bounce back in their half of the first when Kody Bledsoe was hit by a pitch, Corey Stamco singled to right and Conner Morris hit a sharp single to left to load the bases.
“At that point I knew I just had to get an out, even if I gave up a run,” Kiser said. “We just needed to get out of that and I knew we would come back.”
Kiser did more than just get out of it as Weir hit a fly ball to short center that wasn’t deep enough to send the runner home. Brandon Chesmar then hit a blistering one-hopper back to Kiser who started a home-to-first double play to escape unscathed.
“If you would have told me that Amherst would load the bases in the first inning without an out and Kiser would get out of it and go the rest of the way, I would have been a little skeptical,” Avon Lake coach Kevin Marlow said.
Kiser was dominant in setting down 16 of the next 17 batters — including 12 straight — keeping the Comets off balance by changing speeds.
Kiser is 1-1 in three starts against the Comets this season, finishing with 14 straight shutout innings.
Avon Lake tacked on a fourth unearned run against Weir (6-3) in the fourth inning when Morissette — the first of three Shoremen to walk — went to second on a wild pitch and eventually scored on the third passed ball of the game.
Weir went the first five innings without giving up a hit or an earned run, Noah Skladan relieved in the sixth and Matt Russell greeted him with a single through the left side on the first pitch.
Kiser followed with the only extra-base hit of the game — a double to deep right-center. That set up a perfectly executed suicide squeeze by Matt Gottshall to make it 5-0. That was the only RBI in the game.
“It was exciting to get off to a good start against such a good pitcher like Weir,” said Russell. “I think we had a good approach at the plate even though we didn’t get any hits.”
Kiser got three groundballs to third in the sixth and a flyout to right to start the seventh, then Justin Mott and Alex Walts singled to put two on with one out in the seventh.
Kiser got Shawn Reid to ground out to second on an extremely close play when Morissette couldn’t immediately find the handle. Garrett Mullins was then rung up looking at a curveball to send Avon Lake to the district championship.
“That first inning was so uplifting,” Kiser said. “It energized our team and we just didn’t let up. I’ve never pitched against (the Comets) before this year, so I was able the last couple of years to watch their approach and figure out how to attack them. It made a big difference this year.”