October 22, 2014

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H.S. baseball: Keystone comes up clutch at plate, on mound to slip past Firelands, stay undefeated in PAC

Keystone's Tyler Gullett, right, crosses plate after hitting a two-run homer in the first inning. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

Keystone’s Tyler Gullett, right, crosses plate after hitting a two-run homer in the first inning. STEVE MANHEIM/CHRONICLE

PENFIELD — Marcus Gunter felt a lot better and Collin Fitzgerald was just what the doctor ordered for Keystone in a 3-2 win Wednesday over Firelands.

Gunter, who missed a couple of days this week with the flu, hit a go-ahead home run in the second inning, a line shot over the left-field fence that gave the Wildcats the lead after the Falcons tied the game with a pair of unearned runs in the top of the second.

Fitzgerald, meanwhile, scattered seven hits while striking out 11 to lift Keystone in a Patriot Athletic Conference game at Penfield Community Park.

Keystone improved to 6-2 overall and to 4-0 in the PAC. Firelands fell to 3-3, 2-1.

“He was on and was throwing strikes all night,” Firelands coach Doug Benzel said of Fitzgerald, who improved to 2-0 this season with the win. “When pitchers throw strikes all night you’re always going to have a dogfight. We knew coming in to Keystone that it was going to be that way and that’s what we saw tonight.”

With a swirling wind whipping across the field for most of the game, hits were at a premium as both pitchers kept the offenses in check. Senior Tyler Gullett, who is headed to the University of Toledo on a baseball scholarship, lined a 1-1 fastball over the fence in left in the bottom of the first to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.

Firelands answered in the top of second. Junior Mitch Hildebrandt singled with one out, advanced to second on a Fitzgerald throwing error and came around to score on a Steve Pete single. Pete drilled a line drive to right and Hildebrandt appeared to be dead to rights when Fitzgerald cut off right fielder Chris Sittinger’s throw.

Hildebrandt was too far off third to get back and Fitzgerald ran straight at him, forcing him to break for home. The throw was there in plenty of time, but catcher Pierce Young dropped the ball for an error.

Joel Lawson later singled in Jake Abrahamowicz with two out to tie the score.

After Gunter’s home run both pitchers dominated. Firelands starter Frank Johnson allowed three hits the rest of the way while Fitzgerald allowed four hits in the final five innings.

“I think it was a tough day to play baseball, that’s for sure,” said Bert Fitzgerald, Keystone’s coach and Collin’s father. “I give (Collin) a lot of credit as a player and I’m very proud of him. We talked about pulling him out after the fifth, then after the sixth, and he just kept getting it done. I’m very proud of his performance out there.”

Seven of Fitzgerald’s 11 strikeouts came on his curveball. He struck out the side twice and ended the game by striking out Cole Sklarek and Frank Johnson … both on curves.

“Usually when my body is cold my curveball doesn’t work too well,” Fitzgerald said. “I took a little bit off it today, let it be loopy, and it worked out for me today.”

The game was rescheduled after it was rained out Monday. If the weather would have cooperated, Gunter would have missed the game.

“The week I’ve had has been rough,” he said. “I would have missed the first game because I had the flu, but it was rained out so I was able to play today.”
He said the pitch he hit out in the second was one of the few mistakes Johnson made.

“He got down in the count 3-0 and the first pitch I took a hack at I missed,” Gunter said. “He came back with another fastball right down the middle at belt level. He kind of missed and was aiming outside and I was able to take advantage of it.”

Bert Fitzgerald was pleased with approach Gunter and Gullett brought to the plate.

“It was fantastic out of both of those guys to come through,” he said. “The nice thing about both of those guys is that they don’t swing for the fences, even after the power show they put on last year. Both those home runs were line-drive shots. They stayed within themselves and had good swings.”

Contact Mike Perry at 329-7135 or macsportstalk@gmail.com.

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